S. F. CU Focuses on Service
For the past four years San Francisco Fire Credit Union's approach to deepening member relationships has been to listen and make changes.
Opting to invest in delivering a superior member experience and in generating positive word of mouth, the $670 million credit union even offers members a service guarantee of courtesy, accuracy and promptness. If the credit union lapses in these standards at any time, members can simply let them know and SF Fire CU will apologize, correct the issue and credit their account with $10-no questions asked.
SF Fire CU interim President/CEO Darren Herrmann credits this attention to members' needs to former CEO Diana Dykstra, who launched Net Promoter, a customer loyalty metric and discipline that focuses on finding solutions to ease member pain points.
"It was an exciting program based on member feedback, analyzing comments and making change based on that and using a number as a measuring stick for loyalty," said Herrmann. The first survey revealed that the number one complaint was convenience-the credit union only had two branches.
"Many of our members work in San Francisco but live 20-30 miles away or even further so we didn't know how to solve the branch issue but as we reviewed the comments a lot of it related to cash withdrawals," said Herrmann. "So the first solution we created because of Net Promoter was the ATM Rebate program where we'd rebate all ATM transaction fees members incur for withdrawing cash outside of our network."
To further address the issue of convenience, the credit union extended call center hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week and offered online check deposits, where members would receive instant credit for checks mailed in. In addition, when members complained about the automated phone system, SF Fire CU limited the options to three, with "press 0 to speak to someone" the first.
"The biggest benefit of the program has been how it has made it easy for employees to recommend change," said Herrmann. "Everyone looks forward to reading through the comments. We've got a highly engaged group of employees that can't wait to get their hands on that survey to start coming up with ways to improve services."
The credit union has several different types of surveys. A standard member loyalty group relationship survey is conducted three times a year on a random sample of the entire membership. Members may get a phone call from the survey company asking them a group of questions including what the credit union can do that will make them more likely to refer it to other people. Once the results come back, they are packaged for all employees and board members to review. In areas of customer dissatisfaction, everyone is challenged to come up with possible improvements. In addition, transactional surveys go out every day to every new member who opened a new product through any delivery channel and to a random sample of members who bank online or contact the call center by phone. Those results are then reviewed at the executive level on a daily basis.
"So if a member did a transaction yesterday whether it went well or bad, that person will get the survey that night by email," said Herrmann. "So if someone is upset we have an opportunity to resolve the issue with member or diffuse the member and make it right for them quickly."
He added that the daily updates help identify developing service habits, good or bad, within a week, and this encourages employees to put out their top effort. It has also gone a long way in terms of immediate employee recognition and sharing daily best practices.
A recent Filene Research Institute study entitled "Exploring Ongoing Member Loyalty: Net Promoter in Credit Unions" found that credit unions perform better when they measure loyalty and use those measurements in day-to-day management. In addition, members who are more likely to refer the credit union to colleagues and friends are also more likely to hold more accounts, stay with the credit union longer and be more profitable. Credit unions can increase members' likelihood to refer by identifying important member touch points and then shaping processes to match member expectations. It was also found that credit unions that track their loyalty performance and proactively communicate that performance to managers and employees influenced behavior and improved performance.
The result of this member-centric approach at SF Fire CU has been a member retention rate of 98%, a Net Promoter score of 79%, and some 70 reviews with an average five-star rating on the consumer review site Yelp.
"We've seen growth last year of almost 12% and this year we're on pace to even do better than that," said Herrmann. "From a member growth perspective, almost half of that member growth is under the age of 30 and we think it's because we listen to what they're looking for and deliver on services. We have no control over word of mouth beyond delivering the experience and services they want."