The member experience: Fad or future?

Focus on giving members engaging, positive interactions

As a performance strategist, I talk with credit unions every day about the experience they want their members to have. What I hear is eye opening.

I was recently part of a discussion group with credit union vice presidents. Five out of the 120 people indicated that their credit union is focusing on the member experience. Wait. Five out of 120? And this is at a time when futurists are predicting the customer experience is the top opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves and grow.     

It was interesting to hear that these five credit unions had completely different ideas of where to focus their member experience efforts, whether it was information technology, service delivery or just providing something new.

I also found that there’s confusion between great service and the member experience. In short, great service focuses on the transaction, it’s reactive to what’s asked for. It’s done with a smile, good manners, and you call your members by name.

On the other hand, the member experience is an engaging conversation that’s proactive, personal and memorable. It’s a conversation that brings value to the member’s life.

My research and experience indicate that to deliver a noteworthy member experience we must focus on six key factors:

  1. Define the member experience. Is the member completing a loan application, opening a new account, obtaining a mortgage or trying to resolve a problem?
  2. Create user-friendly systems and processes. This allows your staff to easily navigate between platforms and processes are succinct. It avoids unnecessary steps.
  3. Choose staff who engage with members. These employees have relationship building and conversational soft skills. Look for individuals who:
    • Demonstrate empathy
    • Listen to comprehend
    • Communicate in a clear and concise manner
    • Problem solve with a sense of urgency and show they’re knowledgeable
  4. Empower managers and staff to “do the right thing” in a timely manner.
  5. Take ownership of positive member experience. The employee is willing to take personal responsibility for outcomes, not only for the members, but also coworkers.
  6. Offer products that are market worthy and easy for your members to use.

I worked with a group of executives at a credit union to journey map the member experience of their loan processes. The number of steps and hoops the member had to jump through was surprising and shocking to the group. The executives didn’t realize the process was so hard and complicated and believed it had an impact on the credit union’s inability to reach goals. Going through the experience allowed the executives to see that the compliance officer and lending team had put several procedures in place to avoid risk and make their lives easier, but they didn’t consider how it would impact the member experience.

In cases like this, consider these three questions:

Do you have a clear member experience, vision and strategy?

Do you know what your current member experience looks and feels like?

Do you have a culture focused on the six key factors listed above?

This isn’t about being the best you can be. It’s about being better than you’ve ever been because this isn’t a fad, it’s the future.

Authored by: Jayne Hitman is a performance strategist and business development manager for CUNA Creating Member Loyalty™ (CML). To learn more about member experience strategy or CML, contact Jayne at or 608-231-4354.