ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Ken Schmidt, former communication strategist for Harley-Davidson Motor Co., outlined for credit union executives attending Card Services for Credit Unions’ 2013 conference the way the need to change their communication with members to motivate them into loving their credit unions.
The problem with the financial service industry is that so many institutions are, as far as the consumer is concerned, essentially the same and the ways that credit unions so often use to communicate their difference to the public is by appealing to logic with facts about interest rates and fee policies.
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“People almost never make decisions based on logic and facts. That's not the way the world works,” Schmidt said Thursday in his session at the Vinoy Renaissance. “People make decisions based on emotions. I like you or I don't like you. I want that or I don't want that. I trust you or I don't trust you,” he said.
Credit unions instead need to focus on humanizing their interactions with the public, not treating them as customers or even members, but treating them first as human beings – and that means noticing them and listening to them.
Schmidt outlined how Harley-Davidson had fallen from market dominance to the verge of bankruptcy in 1986 when analysts said the company had stood by and let Japanese manufacturers like Honda eat the iconic American motorcycle maker’s lunch.
Schmidt disagreed with that. “We didn't let them eat our lunch,” he said, “we stood there and fed them our lunch,” he said.
Backing away from that brink and coming back to a strong market position again, even with a product that is priced more expensively than competitors, meant that Harley-Davidson had to learn what exactly it was that its customers were buying when they bought a Harley and how important it was to let their customers tell them that.
“How many of you are going to fill out the little, 15-question customer feedback survey in your rooms before you leave,” he asked, barking, “don't lie, you know you won't” at the few people who raised their hands.
But if a hotel staff person, face to face, were to ask some of the same questions, almost everyone would answer them, he said. “Why is that,” Schmidt asked.
Because asking the questions filled what has become the largest unmet emotional need in the U.S. right now, the need and desire to be noticed and reassured that we matter to someone else, he argued.
He used Facebook as an illustration, contending that Facebook's success was built upon a human failure. Facebook has succeeded because it has enabled people in a digital way to find the notice and affirmation in at least a digital way that they are unable to find face to face, he said.