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Once again, a brilliant, inspiring column by publisher Mike Welch, this time on some of his “pet peeves.” At our credit union, I had deliberately sanctioned for internal use only the term customers. Mike’s column inspired me to reverse my position with my entire staff! Here’s how I told them about my change of heart: “I have stated two different positions on the subject issue of members or customers in the past. My first 10 or so years here, I insisted on referring to our members only as members, or member/owners, never as customers. “Then, about four to five years ago, I changed my position and said that I could accept/tolerate the use of the term customers internally because it connotes the retail/competitive marketplace that we increasingly find ourselves doing business in. “Primarily, I was willing to sanction the use of customers because I thought it might help us stay cognizant of the need to compete – daily. However, even when I articulated that, I continued to ask you to always refer to members when communicating with them directly, as members, not customers. “Those of you who attended my recent FIG Federal Corporate Culture training class heard me speak at length about what makes us different, and about what makes credit unions in general different from banks. I won’t repeat all of that now. I know you remember. But suffice to say: WE ARE DIFFERENT AND WE DON’T WANT TO LOSE THAT. “A prominent credit union industry publisher recently said: `The day credit unions have customers instead of members is the day they will no longer be credit unions.’ Interesting. And compelling. Think about it. Banks have customers, we have members. Member/owners, to be exact. Let’s return to referring to our members as exactly what they are: MEMBERS. “Let’s get back to doing that internally as well as externally, in all our communications. However, let’s never forget that we have to compete like crazy not only to get their membership, but to get them to remain actively involved with FIG Federal, the financial institution that, by virtue of their being a member, they own! That’s not really a customer, is it?” Mark Herter President/CEO Farmers Insurance Group FCU Los Angeles

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