When I ask what makes your credit union different, I usually first get a generic, shiny, vanilla “people helping people, good rates and good service” message. Sometimes I know that’s not true, but often I unfortunately realize that is the answer because there is no answer.
A slew of recent events caused me to think about a question I ask sometimes to drill down into what actually makes your credit union different. I ask:
“If you turned off the lights and locked the door of your credit union for the final time, would your members miss you? Not just miss you but left feeling an emptiness because what you do for them isn’t provided by someone else. Are you irreplaceable?”
I recently read the comments on the failed merger attempt by two larger credit unions in New York, and it was apparent that the members of the merging credit union felt their credit union was irreplaceable. They couldn’t fathom having to be served by a different credit union, and enough of them felt that way that the merger was voted down.
Consider the case of a local radio station in Greenville, SC. Earth FM announced its parent company had been sold to a Christian broadcasting company and the station would be switching formats. Earth FM was the last radio station in our market with live personalities throughout the day, live weather updates as storms rolled through, and so much more.
As soon as the announcement was made public, thousands of comments were posted to Facebook angrily protesting the format swap and looming layoffs of the on-air personalities. They had built something special that you couldn’t get at any of the other corporate stations in our market. They played some of the same music, but they also used live personalities who connected with our community. In the words of Tom Petty, “there goes the last DJ.”
Earth FM listeners organized a party and get together for other fans of the station to mingle and share stories, and even some of the radio station personalities showed up. A wake of sorts.
If your credit union died today, would your members act like the listeners of Earth FM, collectively mourning the loss? Would they be distraught at the fact they are losing your credit union’s unique experience that isn’t easily replaceable by another financial institution? Or would they merely be irritated at the inconvenience of having to move their accounts somewhere else?