SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- When Robert Reed arrived at Arrowhead Credit Union in May as the new senior vice president of sales and service, he was more than impressed with the financial institution's impeccable service and transaction records.
The $1.1 billion Arrow-head has such an affinity with its more than 168,000 members, Reed saw an opportunity to focus on areas that needed a little bolstering--more active follow-ups with newly-signed members, for instance, and being proactive with those considering leaving the credit union.
To that end, Arrowhead put in place its 22261 Member Relationship Management program in September. The "22261" represents the time frame in which new members are contacted: two days after the relationship starts, again at two weeks, at two months and six months, and then on their one-year anniversary. Since implementing the 22261 strategy this summer, Arrowhead said it has seen an increase in member service scores across its entire branch network. In January 2007, the service score, which measures the member's experience at the branch on a five-point scale, was 4.68. In October, the average score had increased to 4.76.
"This strategy is a long-term vision with payoffs coming through the process of earning the member's loyalty with every contact point," Reed said. "It is especially gratifying to see tangible results in these service scores."
The second part of Arrowhead's retention strategy is aimed at existing members who want to close their accounts. Reed said rather than doing analysis after a member leaves, a more proactive approach could help to make clear why that person wants to leave and what the credit union could do to make the member stay. Employees at each of Arrowhead's 27 branches have been trained to become "retention specialists." Their job is to determine the underlying causes to account closure requests, to provide solutions and give alternate options.
In January, Arrowhead will roll out its Closure Prevention Indicator Report. The credit union wants to identify triggers that could indicate a member might be considering leaving. For instance, a change in balance, less frequent home banking log-ins or writing fewer checks will get the ball rolling and provide an impetus to contact that member, Reed said.
"As with most credit unions, closures are a very big concern," Reed said. "Reviewing accounts after members are gone doesn't help. The fact of the matter is many are being closed and we need to know why."
Arrowhead's closure numbers were "not satisfactory," Reed acknowledged, adding the credit union spends "a lot of time looking at checking" and found that "closures are still way too high." The good news is that members are not closing their accounts because of unsatisfactory service, Reed said at Arrowhead's last executive committee meeting. The "X factor" is finding out the specific reasons why members are leaving.
So far, the retention component is starting to pay off, Reed said. While the program will have to be in place to see stronger numbers, success stories are already being shared at weekly conference calls with branch managers. One member who was upset with an ATM transaction fee wanted to close his account at a branch and spoke with a relatively new employee. The teller--who, prior to implementation of the retention strategy, may have simply complied with the request--contacted a retention specialist who provided a solution and saved the account. The member even commented that based on the way his request had been handled he felt that his account really mattered to Arrowhead.
"We can drive up member loyalty and increase member satisfaction by reinforcing the belief that every employee can take ownership of the member experience, one member at a time," Reed said.
Arrowhead developed its member relationship management program internally, but the "22261" component was discovered by one of the credit union's executive vice presidents in an industry publication, Reed said. Employees underwent extensive training in August and each of them has a copy of the 22261 binder as a continuous reference.
Arrowhead was also impressed with a similar model being used by $4.3 billion Kinecta FCU. The main difference between the two programs is that Kinecta has a dedicated person responsible for coordinating retention efforts. Reed felt strongly that the person who opened the account for a member should be the same person to do the follow-up if that member was considering leaving. "That's how a relationship is started and there's consistency in building that relationship," Reed said.
That staffer won't be an island, according to Reed. The branch manager and others may be brought in to save the relationship. Arrowhead understands that are certain scenarios that are out of the credit union's control--for instance, when a member has to relocate for a job.
"The impression given to members is we care enough that we will bring in someone else and involve them in the transition so that we can understand where we've gone wrong," Reed said.