SEATTLE -- The $3 billion Kinecta Credit Union is at last getting a handle on membership retention, cutting account closings in half.
Reason for that kind of success: it relies on inexpensive employee incentives coupled with a dedicated corps of "retention specialists" housed in the branches and at a CU Contact Center.
Addressing the annual Marketing Association of Credit Unions conference here, Kathryn Davis, vice president of sales and marketing at the Manhattan Beach, Calif. CU, explained that its program grew out of necessity considering Kinecta was witnessing 1,500 membership closings a month.
That comes at a rate of 2,000 new signups a month, of which half was from indirect, said Davis noting that the CU with 14 branches and 200,000 members "has had huge membership goals of 15,000 a year."
The designated specialists, two per branch and six to eight at the Contact Center, are given $5 for every member retained and can earn $10 for cross-sells. "It doesn't sound like much but it's got our staff excited," said Davis.
Under the Kinecta program, the retention specialists are dedicated to calling members on the phone and determining the most "at risk" factors which cause them to leave the CU whether it be poor service, lack of products, convenience, relocation or other issues.
Davis said statistics show that the more accounts a member has the less apt they are to leave and so with one account, the ratio is 72%, with two 88% and three, 95%.
In her MAC remarks, the Kinecta marketer listed the top reasons why members close accounts and they included: below minimum balance, paid off loans, inconvenient location, move out of area, account disuse, better offer elsewhere or poor service.
In attacking vulnerable areas, the Kinecta specialist sets a 3.5 cross-sell ratio for every new member at the initial account opening.
"Thank you cards are sent within the first week of opening and there is a telephone follow-up within two weeks," said Davis.
In addition, a welcome gift is sent within the first month and targeted direct mail offers are sent at 30 and 60-day intervals, she said.
Davis said on the drawing boards are these "future onboarding ideas" and they include: new member orientation dinners so they can learn about products and services, thank you notes for every product purchased, birthday cards or e-mails and lastly "oops we goofed gifts" for each error corrected with apology card.
In discussing flaws in retention tracking, Kinecta has found that most financial institutions measure account closure exclusively "when 80% of retention failure is due to diminishment of activity," she said.
Moreover, retention measurement often fails to simply recognize the changing financial status of the member, which accounts for the closing, she said.
The most common signs of what she called "predictive behavior" on accounts calling for marketing opportunities include:
- Change of address triggering promotion of online service and shared branching;
- Checking accounts with no activity in 30 days triggering promotion offers and shared branching;
- Dormant checking accounts--"Where have you been?" campaigns are in order with free checks and grand prize drawings for direct deposit signups; and
- For share certificate households--special deposit and investment offers.
For indirect only households, Davis suggested CUs look toward credit card, mortgage and HELOC offers and for loan-only households members can be included in special terms on auto loans 18 months or longer or six months left on the loan.
"Paid off loans get a thank you," she said and for closed accounts there are quarterly offers of specials plus a "join again" invite.
In hiring retention specialists, Kinecta puts emphasis on recruiting "problem solvers" who have an ability to "negotiate alternative options when presented with a closure request," said Davis.
The specialists are trained in "conflict management" and must also possess strong "interpersonal skills," said Davis.
Based on results so far, "one additional change is for branch managers to be involved in every closure" with the idea that closures will drop further, she concluded.