You're a Credit Union, Not a Coffee Shop
Who doesn't want to be Amazon, Starbucks or Zappos? But who can, really?
As of April of 2013, I will have worked in the CU Industry for five years. Five years! A lot's happened and, if you want the truth, I'm thankful for every second. I like credit union people. They're neat. And, for the most part, they're pretty well-grounded.
With one exception.
Over the past five years, I've read an awful lot about how credit unions should be more like [X]. I use the variable [X] there because, according to the dozens of articles I've read over the past five years, CUs should be like a lot of different companies.
Now, I write for a living. I understand you have to have a hook. But some of these articles are so divorced from the reality of credit unions that you have to shake your head. Yeah, you could have every employee on social media sites all day the way Zappos does (or did? Do they even still do that?). But considering how much harder social media's going to become and how bad most credit unions were at it anyway, is that a wise investment of an employee's time? Probably not.
Sure, Amazon's got good ideas about targeting products to people's interests or perceived interests, but when you have to go through seven different committees to get your most basic technological needs met (take my word on that...experience is the best teacher), how can you update and "innovate?"
Yeah, Starbucks was everywhere...but not so much these days, unless you're in China. And yeah, people like hanging out in a Starbucks because of the coffee smell and the trendy music, but as Geezeo's Bryan Clagett said in a CU Insight article:
"Creating this unique and relaxing "experience" and "atmosphere" for people has been very important for the coffee retailer as they have realized that this is one of the defining concepts attached to the company. But let's admit it, your credit union is not going to be a 'third place.' And it can't generate a member return by offering a coffee shop environment."
The lessons are fine, I guess, when you comb through the articles and find the "moral." But the missing piece in so many of these articles is the truth about what it takes to implement sweeping changes or make a huge impact. Read Jimmy Marks' complete column.