Fear of Selling Can Lead to Poor Member Service, Expert Says
"Think across the entire financial services industry. We all feel as though selling is a bad word and we've gone so far in the opposite direction that now we're offering poor customer service," said Econiq Senior Vice President Sales/Marketing Joe Blake. "If we're not interested enough in our members to ask questions to better understand their needs-that is more than poor customer service it can be a reason for members to leave. Taking interest in your members and making them aware of something that can help them isn't a sales issue. It's simply customer service."
To address what Blake refers to as the frontline gap challenge, Econiq has developed a solution that leverages the real-time interactions between staff and members to get a better insight into what products or services a member needs.
"If you step back and look at the money spent on technology, CRM, process training or product training and just recruiting and retaining staff, the greatest challenge is that, although they come in week after week and we know their first name and a little about their lifestyle, we still seem incapable of transforming that into value on any level," said Blake. He added that most efforts to roll out a cross-sell initiative end up falling back on the traditional approach of looking at data and developing a to-buy list. Or worse. Some credit unions take a flavor of the month approach, where frontline staff talks about credit cards, for example, to everyone that comes through the door.
"We call that cross selling. Something is clearly wrong if that is the best we can do," Blake said.
Wanting to do more is what Blake said sparked the new solution. Here is how it works. Information on each member is shared during everyday conversations, like about events in a member's life. The information is captured and analyzed in real time to alert the frontline sale person to products or services that might be of interest to the member. Blake said it almost serves as a cross-sales personal coach for each staffer while creating a formal automatic sales referral for other areas of the credit union, such as the business, mortgage and investment departments.
"The functionality is most important as the mini-dialogue enables staff to very quickly- within two clicks of a mouse- gather 80% to 90% of lifestyle information on members in real time," said Blake. "So if that member left the branch and got on the phone with the call center, all that information is instantly available and the conversation picks up from where they last left off."
For a little over a month, Austin, Texas-based Amplify Federal Credit Union has been beta-testing Econiq's latest frontline sales effectiveness solution. According to Amplify Senior Vice President of Retail Pierre Cardenas, the patent-pending technology will be used throughout the organization-from managerial staff to frontline employees-and will be deployed across its network of branch and call center operations.
"Research shows that the first few months a new customer is with a bank or credit union is when you have the most opportunity to sell them additional products or services. We want to make offers that matter most to our members," said Cardenas. "The technology is different and covers all the bases. And the reporting capability is beyond our dreams. We can track monitor and follow in detail by individual everything they do and manage to it."
He said with the official rollout slated for the first week of December, plans are also underway to use the technology to help the credit union optimize its staffing levels to drive operational efficiencies. He said a new level of insight into each interaction will help identify not just the number of people coming into the branch, but what they are coming in for. He added that branches can be staffed accordingly, to match real members' needs.
"Before we could track how many people come into a branch for a new loan, transactions or new account, but that only covers about 70% of the traffic. The other 30% of it is a bit of a black hole-a hit and miss game that leads to poor customer service and operational inefficiencies. This system now records the workflow all the way through, giving us complete visibility of new members, when they joined, what we should offer them, when we did it and what the response was. Ad it works with our existing systems."
Excited about the possibilities available, Cardenas said for now the goal over the next few months is to see a 20% increase in cross sales and referrals while identifying the inefficiencies in processes to help reduce expenses.
"Focusing on the workflow takes relying on an individual's memory out of the process and makes training more efficient since the staff no longer has to look for a particular document. Everything is right there," said Cardenas. "So instead of using the system to pull information, it is pushing information. The real test for me is when I go out to open a business account, which is something I don't do everyday. If I can do that intuitively, error-free, then it frees me up to focus on the relationship rather than the process."