Your people and process make you stand out

On three occasions recently I was reminded of the immense value of personalized and genuine sales and service efforts and wondered how often we miss out on similar opportunities presented every day at our credit unions.

First, I heard a story told by a great speaker I’ve known for many years. Shep Hyken is a foremost presenter of customer satisfaction and service and is a real captivating speaker. He told a story of being in Dallas, TX during the hot summer and getting in a cab heading to the airport. Not only did the cab driver have the air conditioning on so it was nice and cool in the car but he also had a small cooler in the backseat with ice cold bottles of water and soda.

If you’re like me, too many times I’ve hailed a cab on a hot day only to find the windows rolled down and the backseat full of litter and debris. This cabbie in Dallas went above and beyond to create a pleasurable and memorable experience for his customers. He didn’t stop there however – after finding out that Shep had some time to kill before his flight, the cab driver took a detour on the way to the airport (and turned off the meter!) to show Shep some of the local sights and restaurants.

When they finally arrived at the airport, the cab driver presented his business card and told Shep to ask for him the next time he’s coming to Dallas. He’d have his favorite drink in the cooler waiting for him! Not only did the cab driver warrant a significant tip at the end of this transaction but also numerous referrals to future travelers to Dallas.

For your credit union: Conducting banking transactions is usually a pretty mundane experience. There’s rarely anything different or extraordinary that occurs. Therefore, when a member does experience something outstanding – Shep calls these moments of magic” – they stand out in the member’s mind. That’s exactly what we want members to experience – moments that stand out in their mind for positive reasons. In turn, our credit union will stand out in their mind when they have a future need or talking to others who have financial needs.

For this to happen, our staff needs to be willing and able to go above and beyond normal (mundane) service levels. They need to think about how they can stand out in the member’s mind because they make all the difference. They also need the autonomy to do those “little” things that will allow them and the credit union to stand out. Things like getting a member a soda on a hot day or recommending the restaurant next door when it’s close to lunch time.

Frontline employees should recognize, like the cabbie in Dallas, that their future success depends on each member having a memorable experience with the credit union. Each employee, especially those directly responsible for those experiences, should identify specific little ways they can be outstanding with each and every member they serve.

The second story is about a normally unpleasant experience that turned extraordinary. After much shopping, my wife and I recently purchased a new car from a dealer we had purchase from previously. The salesman was pleasant (which means he wasn’t overbearing) and fair (which means he didn’t use any obvious sales tricks to negotiate a better deal). In the course of conversation, my wife commented on a scented candle he had on his credenza and he mentioned that it was his wife’s favorite scent.

We closed the deal that night and picked up our car a couple days later, happy with our addition to the family and relieved that the dreaded car-buying experience was over. However, two days later we receive a package at our front door from the salesman. It was the scented candle from his office with a handwritten note saying that we should remember our beautiful new car every time we burn it. He also made a funny comment about me not liking the scent but not having a choice in the matter since my wife managed the candle-buying duties in the house.

For your credit union: Randy knew that buying a car was a normally dreadful experience and that most shoppers think negatively of the salespeople. He also recognized that we had chosen to come back to his dealer to buy a second car when there were lots of other places we could’ve gone – traditional and non-traditional car dealers. Further, he knew that if there was any chance of us buying a third car from them in the future, he’d better sure this experience was memorable in a positive way.

This may be hard for some of you to hear but members don’t always enjoy coming into your branch. Whether it’s the people or the location or the building itself, there are many other places many members would rather go. Therefore, when they do come in (or call), we need to be sure to make it as absolutely pleasant and memorable as possible.

Let’s recap what Randy did: he acknowledge and appreciated our repeat business. He engaged us in a pleasant and lighthearted conversation about something as innocuous as scented candles. And then he went out of his way to send a hand written, highly personalized note with a highly personalized gift.

I see a lot of credit unions who say they’re going to send thank you notes but then run out of time and don’t. I see more who send a note but it’s a generic form letter and not personalized. And I see some others who just assume that their members are going to be loyal and don’t do anything. Every one of us should learn from this car salesman and personalize every member interaction and demonstrate in some fashion sincere gratitude for our members choosing us instead of the innumerable financial institutions in the market today.

For the final story, my son is a high school senior and we are navigating the minefield also known as the college selection process. He has narrowed his list down to two schools and we visited both on consecutive days last week. The schools are very close in most categories we’ve considered but one stood out for a reason you don’t often associate with the process – the admissions counselor.

Colleen was very professional yet personal from the moment we met her. Pleasant smile, eye contact, firm handshake, easy demeanor. She welcomed us sincerely and offered us each a drink before we went upstairs to her office. The admissions office is in a 100+ year old building that has been magnificently restored and Colleen took great pleasure in showing us the beautiful building. She could tell I loved old architecture and effuse sincere interest herself. Her pride in the building and acknowledgement of my interest was obvious – it was as if we she was welcoming us into her own home!

As we progressed up the staircase to her office I mentioned that my father had attended this school over 60 years ago. She stopped in stride and said how happy she was that our son would be reconnecting the school to my family. Wow, what a great thing to say! It wasn’t said it a salesy, cheesy manner; it was genuine and sincere. Again, it was like she was welcoming us to her family!

The meeting continued and Colleen continued to impress. Not because she or the school was giving us a sales pitch or a better deal (the schools are very even in all categories of choice) but because she was empathetic of the challenging process and truly appreciated us considering her school so ardently. Her passion for the school and for the decision we were making was palatable.

For your credit union: There were two qualities that Colleen demonstrated in this experience that our frontline employees need to possess – passion and empathy. The passion should be for the credit union and their role in helping members find solutions to financial needs. The empathy should be for the difficult and frustrating road most members have to endure to satisfactorily resolve those challenges.

I have some clients who don’t have employees in member-facing roles who genuinely and consistently demonstrate these two qualities. To these employees, this is just another job and they’re waiting on just another member. To the credit union, this interaction is just another transaction and the focus from the employee’s boss is doing that transaction without error, not as pleasantly and memorable as possible.

Hiring and nurturing employees who possess personalities that exude these, and similar, qualities is a strategic focus of top-performing financial and retail institutions. They don’t hire a square peg for a round hole, as the saying goes. They go to great lengths, even if it takes extra time, to find employees like Colleen who will naturally and honestly welcome and appreciate each member.

If you or your credit union would like to incorporate these and other similar qualities into your member experiences, my firm would be happy to help. Please contact me at or 636-578-3280.

Paul Robert

Paul Robert

Paul Robert has been helping financial institutions drive their retail growth strategies for over 25 years. Paul is the Chief Executive Officer for FI Strategies, LLC, a small but mighty ... Web: Details