Back in 1908, when Monsignor Pierre Hevey was setting up America’s first modern-day credit union in his Manchester, N.H. home, he probably wasn't concerned with delinquencies and charge-offs. As the founders of the modern American credit union, Hevey and his team focused on services important to his parishioners at the time: safety, opportunity and equality.
We, as credit unions, live and work in a very different world today, a world with ever-increasing competition, ever-changing technology and ever-present regulation. We live in a time of accelerating change, where there is a lot of pressure for organizations to grow and adapt or face being left behind.
More and more, today’s financial products are becoming commodities, but it is the accessibility and how and when these products are being delivered that determines who gets the business.
So, what does this mean for credit unions and our value proposition? What is your credit union doing to differentiate itself?
As modern business models shift from purely transactional to relationship-based and focus on customer loyalty, what is your credit union doing to create a member base so in tune with your mission and vision and so incredibly loyal that they’d recommend you to not only their best friends and closest family but colleagues, neighbors and maybe even a complete stranger?
When it comes to customer loyalty, nobody does it better than, you guessed it, Apple. Was the difference between the iPhone 4 and the new iPhone 4S so groundbreaking that it warranted lines a block long? Was it worthy of makeshift tents and camping out days before its release? For most, the answer is no. Unless, of course, you are a disciple of what The Washington Post dubbed, “a new religion lead by Steve Jobs as the high priest.” In that case, you’re probably reading this from your urban lean-to, awaiting the next release of a super cool Mac gadget.
While tailgating in front of your branches might be on just this side of unrealistic, Apple’s success is driven not only by its strong sense of community and culture among its tight-knit group of users but also by its ability to deliver innovative, market-shifting products ahead of everyone else. That is something that can and should be translated into any credit union’s product development strategy today. Apple anticipates what their followers will ask for next. They know what their customers want even before the customers themselves know. It’s how their products have helped shape the social and economic behaviors of today’s society.
So, what matters to your members? What are they asking for right now? What will they ask for later? Whatever it might be, credit union leaders should constantly be thinking, “What is the next big thing our members need, and how do we get there first with it?”
Whether it’s a new loan product, a convenient new service option or even a new delivery channel through which these can be offered, credit unions should anticipate their members’ needs and deliver the product before the members even realize they need it.
Don’t play catch-up, stay ahead of the game. Stay true to your membership and understand what they want before they do. Doing so will help your credit union not only get there first but stay there.
Sean Flynn, is manager of indirect lending at Service Credit Union, Rochester, N.H.
Contact 603-422-8417 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Crash Network is a grassroots organization composed of several hundred young credit union professionals. Its activities include meetings, mentorships online collaboration and development projects. Opinions expressed are the personal views of the author.