The credit union industry has made excellent member service a cornerstone of our business model. For current credit union members, this approach seems to have worked; according to a Filene study, credit unions outperform banks for member/customer satisfaction. But that’s the current membership, and while they say they love their credit union, it hasn’t translated into increased market share. If credit unions want to grow as an industry, our definition and delivery of service must evolve.
Market research indicates areas credit unions need to improve. First, a secret shopper project by RateWatch and IntelliShop indicated that shoppers in search of a new financial institution, after interacting with staff at both banks and credit unions, rated the service higher and felt more confident about big banks. What are we missing with these new people if current members rate us so highly?
In part, it's the initial sell. It is no secret that credit unions are particularly averse to selling anything. We don't want to push members into products they don’t want. However, the secret shopper study also found that credit union representatives overlooked asking crucial questions to help determine the best products for the member. With banking switching to electronic delivery channels, opportunities to talk to members are waning. It is critically important that we make the most of meetings with new members. If we fail to promote the features and benefits of our accounts, we fail to communicate our value.
But it’s not just a sales culture that’s missing. A survey of consumer financial preferences found that convenience was the biggest factor preventing big bank cusomers from switching financial institutions. Credit unions need something that will appeal to these members: technology.
Credit unions must embrace technology as a part of our new service strategy. We’ve been too slow to incorporate mobile banking and personal financial management tools. These products coupled with features like ATM alliance networks, would enable credit unions to provide members better access. Convenience, accessibility, and efficiency are becoming benchmarks of good service.
Sales, technology and service are not mutually exclusive. All three working together will help us appeal to a wider range of consumers, and then following up with more traditional service. Is that really so different from the mission we’ve had all along?
Erin Steffen is an EFT/loan processor, Horizon Community Credit Union in Green Bay, Wis.
Contact 920.433.0122 x 105 Erins@horizonccu.com
The Cooperative Trust is a grassroots organization of several hundred young credit union professionals. Opinions expressed are the personal views of the author.