Member Experience: You Only Get One Shot
Everyone knows you only get one chance to make a good first impression. And depending on the situation, a terrible first impression can cost you a job, a potential mate or the approval of someone you were hoping to win over.
If you’re a credit union, it can cost you a member. Think about what that means: The potential for a lifelong financial partnership that includes a $15,000 auto loan, $200,000 mortgage and retirement planning services – gone.
There is a lot of talk in the industry around member experience and technology. A common message is that members will stick with credit unions that stay ahead of the technology curve. Of course, if that technology isn’t perfectly seamless – if it causes any level of frustration or agitation, or requires significant work on the consumer’s end – it’s totally counterproductive.
Still, in our low-patience world of instant gratification, seamless technology isn’t something that will make a member bank at a particular credit union for life. It’s something a member expects from their credit union. What will give the credit union an edge is something a machine can’t do – provide that human to human, personal touch. Ask yourself: Is your staff developing personal relationships with members? How are they making them feel? Do your members know you care? Are they having to do any of the work, or are you doing it for them (as you should be)?
I’m in the middle of making an out-of-state move, which means I’ve had interactions with numerous service companies over the past month, including car and renter’s insurance companies, moving companies, leasing agents and cable companies. Moving is emotionally tolling enough as it is, so I’ve had no patience for poor customer service.
Luckily, my experience with these companies has been mostly positive. The leasing agent, for one, shined above the others by staying in touch with me one-on-one via email, telling me exactly what I needed to provide and even helping me select a paint color for an accent wall in the apartment (classy!).
One company that did not get an “A” in service, however, was a fitness studio I had purchased multiple class packages from before deciding to move. I explained to the manager over email and to several employees in person that due to an unexpected move, I wouldn’t be able to use all the classes before my departure and would really appreciate a refund for the final package I purchased. They left me hanging for weeks, only sending two emails that read, “We’re looking into this, thank you for your patience!” I was this close to writing a negative Yelp review about the place when they finally agreed to the refund.
Speaking of that, Yelp should give all businesses a reason to never let their service quality slide. The popularity of online review writing has allowed consumers to take control of businesses’ reputations – and some businesses have been so scared of negative reviews that they paid or bribed customers to publish positive reviews. Last year, CBS News reported a number of businesses were offering customers gift cards and discounts for negative review removal or positive reviews; online review companies Amazon and Yelp fought back by suing people for selling fake reviews and flagging businesses that were bribing customers to write positive reviews.
I experienced a bribe first-hand once from a dentist who offered me a discounted whitening service in exchange for a review – now he didn’t say a positive review, but do you think I’d let him get near my mouth with sharp tools after criticizing him online?
Here’s an idea for businesses that’s better than a bribe: Do something that makes customers want to write a positive review. For credit unions, ensuring the member experience requires little effort on the member’s end can result in not just a good review but member loyalty.
A Filene Research Institute report, “Member Ease of Use as a Competitive Advantage,” asserts that high customer effort equals disloyalty, and to really win member loyalty, credit unions should “forget the bells and whistles and simply solve their problems.”
The report noted that in call center interactions, for example, consumers often find themselves putting in undue effort when they’re required to make repeated calls because their issue wasn’t resolved on the first attempt. Of those who reported putting in great effort in their service interactions, 96% were more disloyal, compared to 9% of customers who expended little effort; 94% of customers who reported low effort expressed an intention to repurchase from the business and 88% said they would increase their spending; and 81% of customers who had a hard time solving their problems reported an intention to spread negative word of mouth about the business.
What’s more, the report found, there’s a 15% reduction in purchase intent when customers experience a complex transaction, 58% of people would stop buying from a company as a result of a poor experience and 70% would discourage others from engaging with that company. Plus, customers cited a 15% reduction in purchase intent following a “complex” interaction as opposed to a “simple” interaction, according to the report.
Want to keep your members from putting in undue effort? Implement a seamless system, train staff on how to handle expected hiccups and be a good listener. Filene recommends training reps to address the emotional side of member interactions, minimizing the need for members to switch service channels, eliciting and using feedback from disgruntled or struggling members, and focusing on solving problems as opposed to speed.
You only get one shot to win over a potential member for life, so make it count.
Natasha Chilingerian is managing editor for CU Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.