What credit unions can learn from Stitch Fix and Blue Apron

As the credit union industry evolves, we’re constantly trying to capture market share, maintain countless ratios, provide a necessary service to our member-owners, all while WOWing them so they use more products and services and recommend us to their friends and families.

But are we meeting their financial needs in a way that’s easy and convenient for THEM?

Or easy and convenient for US?

Many companies have identified a need in the marketplace and created a way to make a task easier and more convenient for the consumer.  Why aren’t credit unions doing this more? So often in credit union land, I hear, “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

As an industry, we need to be more innovative! Constantly!

Think of companies that have fine-tuned innovation. Here are two that have a few lessons for us.

Stitch Fix. This service is for those who want a personal stylist to engineer an entire outfit from head to toe. Including accessories. Down to the earrings and belt. They style for women, men, and even kids. You complete an online questionnaire about your style preferences, sizes, and budget, you decide how often you want your “Fix”, you indicate if you want an entire outfit or a few pieces, and you’ll get a box with an outfit according to your specs. You pay a $20 styling fee, which is applied when you purchase items from your Fix box. If you don’t like any of the pieces, you send them back in the pre-paid addressed envelope and pay for what you keep. Here’s a company that recognized many people lack the time (or skill!) to shop and coordinate an outfit, so they’ve made it convenient.

Lesson: They’ve taken an everyday task (getting dressed) and made it easier for the consumer.

Blue Apron. It’s a similar concept to Stitch Fix, except it’s for your dinner. In today’s busy society, some people don’t or can’t cook. (Side note: these are my people.) You determine the size of your meal based on the number of diners, and you can specify various dietary restrictions or requests. You visit their website and choose the meals you want and the delivery date. A box arrives at your door with all the ingredients, including produce, pasta, meat, fish, spices, vegetables, sauces, marinades, etc. along with easy to follow directions. Voila! Dinner is served.

Lesson: They’ve taken an everyday task (cooking dinner) and made it easier for the consumer.

So, here’s the big question. And I ask this question often to our credit union clients.

Is it EASY for your members to do business with you?

At your credit union, when was the last time you took an everyday task and changed it to make it easier for your members? I don’t mean throwing compliance rules and regulations out the window to take shortcuts. I mean modifying a simple task that you might not even realize is burdensome to your members.

Here are a few quick stories, and hopefully one will inspire you to prompt a change at your credit union to make it easier for your members to do business with you!

My HSA debit card is from a credit union. About a year ago, I was in Atlanta, had a visit to a chiropractor, used my HSA debit card, and it was declined. The next day, I called my credit union and was told that because I was out of my “home area,” I had to request authorization privileges to use it where I was travelling. I asked how I was supposed to know that, and the response was, “It’s for your protection.” I asked again. I never got a direct answer – only a lecture about fraud and debit cards. I’m not exactly sure how the members of this credit union are supposed to know that if you leave your “home area” your HSA debit card won’t work. I looked on their website and found nothing about HSA debit card authorization in your “home area.” I looked through my original HSA paperwork from them and found no information regarding this issue.  Maybe they could figure out a way to make it easier for their HSA debit card holders to know that their card won’t work if they’re not in their hometown. I’m sure I’m not the first member with that experience. Because of that scenario, I had to pay for the chiropractic visit personally, then figure out how to submit a claim reimbursement form to my insurance company for that charge. What a waste of my time. All because my HSA debit card was unauthorized outside of my “home area.” The next time I travelled to Atlanta, I called the credit union before I left to activate my HSA card in the ATL. When I tried to use it at that chiropractor, it was declined. In my wallet, I now keep two checks from my HSA checkbook. Along with my HSA debit card. That may or may not work outside my “home area” even after I’ve requested it.

Another very relatable (but a bit older) example is Christmas Club Accounts. Back in the day, credit unions used to mail a Christmas Club check to the member. As technology advanced, most credit unions now simply do a sweep of funds into the members’ accounts. How much easier is that for the member? Instead of waiting for a check to be mailed from the credit union, and then visiting the credit union to deposit that check, the funds are simply transferred. Of course, the member can request a check if they want one mailed to them.

Another example is one of my favorites from a few years back. A credit union was trying to increase e-statements. Many members just hadn’t enrolled. We had signage in the branches, newsletter articles, website notices, tellers were talking to members and got a lot of interest, but the enrollments were trickling in. So, we came up with a creative idea. Every Friday for a month, we parked a laptop and a credit union staff member (we had shifts) in the lobby. We offered to “hand hold” the members and walk them through step by step to enroll in e-statements. (E-statement enrollment was done through the Online Banking portal, so the member had to do it themselves.) Was it a bit of a burden on staffing to have an employee manning the laptop all day? Yes. Did the staff enjoy helping the members? Absolutely. Did the member appreciate having someone walk them through the e-statement enrollment process? Definitely. (Many members commented that they didn’t realize it was that easy.) Did the credit union recognize a significant increase in e-statement usage? Of course. Were credit union expenses reduced because so many more members were utilizing e-statements? Certainly. All it took was a little personal attention with the member. I do realize it’s not always feasible to work with each member individually, but in this circumstance, at this small credit union, a little one-on-one assistance was all it took to have a big impact on e-statement usage.

I share these examples to hopefully spark some innovation in my fellow credit union peeps. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the job, that we forget to think about the member and their experience with us. And if you can’t think of a way to make it easier for your members to do business with you, I have an absolutely positively guaranteed technique for you to figure it out. Ask your front line. Anyone. Any employee who deals with your members on a daily basis will tell you a policy or procedure that could be improved, eliminated or modified to make it less burdensome for the member. If you ask them, they’ll tell you.

Credit unions are in an evolving and competitive landscape right now. You don’t always have to have the hottest, newest technology to move forward and grow. Or the snazziest website. Or the most branches. But you do have to make it easy for your members. Believe me – if it’s easier for them somewhere else, that’s where they’ll go. Look at how your members interact with your credit union and see if you can change something to make it less cumbersome from the member’s perspective. Take a walk in your members’ shoes every once in a while.

Lesson: Every credit union employee has the ability to be innovative and inspire change to create an easier member experience. Take a few minutes and give it some thought!

Jayni Sech

Jayni Sech

Jayni founded Marketing Solutions Unlimited, a credit union marketing company, in 2001 to offer creative solutions to marketing challenges in the credit union industry. Her vision was to build a ... Web: www.marketingsolutionsunltd.com Details

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