Immediate Gratification Distracts From Details
A couple nights ago I talked to my husband on my personal cell phone about what we were planning for dinner while responding to a work email on my other phone. Do I really need to reply to marketing tonight while discussing hot dogs and carrot sticks? Then I rationalize, well, this is one less thing I’ll have to do in the morning as I head into another chockfull 10-hour day. Sound familiar?
Smartphones and notebook computers have been powered society toward immediate gratification beyond all reason. Combine that with continued economic distress that has pushed companies to freeze hiring or layoff employees so the work load on the thankful but nervous employees that remain has increased. And because so much information can be made available so immediately via the Internet, it’s easy to allow modern connectivity to manage us rather than the other way around.
The news industry has been particularly affected by the modern culture of ready-fire-aim and knowing this, CUNA got a bit ahead of itself in surveying and announcing new member numbers in the run up to Bank Transfer Day. CUNA had originally said new member numbers were at least 650,000 in the month running up to Bank Transfer Day but has revised that figure down to roughly one-third of that at 210,000. More attention to the details of the survey could have been given to avoid the confusion that occurred. It’s a huge gap–no one can deny that. In fact the banks are having a field day, with it in American Banker and ABA Senior Economist Keith Leggett’s blog, Credit Union Watch.
This gaffe will cause CUNA to be a bit red-faced among industry observers and colleagues, but to their credit, they came out in front of it and revised their own numbers before someone like Leggett got hold of the fourth-quarter 5300s.
The silver lining is that consumers, your members and potential members, likely didn’t pay much attention to the total numbers. At the most basic level, consumers only care about their own financial dealings and probably those of their friends and family. The other 649,728 people really don’t matter to them, so this goof shouldn’t overshadow the positive gains made by credit unions in the last few months. Your members and potential members are the details that matter the most so don’t give CUNA a pass, but always home the bulk of your focus on the people who really matter.
Aaron Levie, CEO and co-founder of Box, recently wrote a blog post for Fast Company entitled “To Create Something Exceptional, Do Sweat the Small Stuff” that caught my attention. In it he stated, “The implied wisdom is that abstract and conceptual thinking always prevails over narrow determination and single-mindedness. And yet, when we look at the greatest inventions, greatest companies, and greatest teams of our time, their success always comes down to tireless concern over every last detail.” Member and potential member needs from their financial services partners are your details. Credit unions know their memberships like no other financial institution. Be observant and be sure to use that knowledge to your advantage.
I’m in the middle of reading Onward right now, so take Starbucks for example. Howard Schultz had a bigger picture vision for the company: be a responsible corporate citizen, treat employees with respect and dignity, offer a neighborhood and family gathering place and provide value for shareholders. But he believed Starbucks could only achieve that by sweating the details. The espresso machines were too tall so it was more difficult for the baristas to engage with their customers. He shut down thousands of U.S. stores for a day to ensure proper training on the precise way to pour an espresso shot. When shareholder suggested millions in savings by using just 5% lower quality coffee beans, he refused. When Schultz came back as CEO, he hired sharp people he felt would be able to live and breathe the Starbucks culture. Even the smell of coffee in the stores was important and could not be overpowered by their breakfast sandwiches.
Even the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau understands this and is showing its willingness to work with its constituents, both consumers and financial institutions. The CFPB so far has actually begun work to simplify things for financial institutions and consumers. It has worked to combine and streamline RESPA and TILA disclosures. Then it was also announced last week that PenFed would be the guinea pig for a new simplified credit card disclosure. The practical impact of these changes could be very positive for all financial institutions and consumers. Demonstrating that level of respect for PenFed and, by extension, credit unions is huge. A detail not to be missed.