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NEW CASTLE, Del. – Students receive report cards, employees often look at their paychecks and titles to see how they’re doing – what about assessing a credit union in the eyes of its members? The Delaware Credit Union League is launching a mystery shopper program aimed at giving participating credit unions feedback on just how they stack up. The plan is being presented to credit unions at meetings in various parts of the state that began in mid-August and will run into the fall. “We had two credit unions sign up on the spot,” says Jane Bailey, DCUL executive vp. “Every credit union I spoke to said they definitely need this.” Bailey explains the idea came from Valerie Hughley, an outside marketing consultant the league uses to provide service excellence training and other help. “We all put out heads together and tried to figure how we could pull this off in a small state where everybody knows everybody,” Bailey recalls. “A lot of the league employees have been here quite a long time, so we can’t be mystery shoppers ourselves. “Valerie contacted one of her colleagues, Valerie Brown, who has a company called I AM Consulting Group. She has done mystery shopping programs for retail establishments and other businesses. The two Valeries got together and customized the idea to a credit union.” Mystery shoppers are already being recruited. They must be eligible for membership in the credit union they’re shopping. Bailey figures that’s perfect for a community chartered credit union or one with multiple SEGs. “The shoppers can be volunteers, maybe individuals who were on a supervisory committee or board at one point,” she says. “In fact, I was just asking our staff here if they knew anybody, and someone said their landlady might be interested. What happens is someone is a shopper, they tell their neighbor or sister-in-law, and it kind of snowballs.” Each credit union will determine specific items mystery shoppers will focus on. The consulting group will meet with the credit union to identify those targets. For example, perhaps the credit union just developed a platinum card program – and it’s going nowhere. Are the tellers cross-selling it? Or perhaps the credit union is concerned about negative reports concerning a particular employee. The mystery shoppers will also do facility shopping. Is it easy to access the branch? Is it clean? Are rates posted in clear view? In addition, they can shop a credit union by phone or access the Web site. The shoppers don’t make judgments. They only record behavior. The report is confidential and the league will not have access to the results. Bailey believes once a credit union receives the report, the challenge will be following up with appropriate training. “Out of this, we are running a session on proper business attire, phone etiquette and basic business etiquette. We want to provide credit unions with the tools to meet the goals,” she says. “It’s an excellent incentive program. Credit union employees will be aware they will be shopped. However, they won’t know where and when. If it’s run correctly, the manager will say, `If we reach this goal, we will buy everyone pizza for lunch one day,’ or `Everyone can take an hour off.’ “It’s important to share results with the staff as a group and get feedback. Obviously if you’re shopping an individual you would do that privately.” Cost is based on the number of shops. A small credit union might only want to be shopped twice a month. A large credit union might want mystery shoppers to stop by 48 times a year. The price ranges between $85 and $70 per shop, with the price per visit going down with more frequent shops. The DCUL has already been talking to colleagues at other states in the region such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania about expanding the program. There has also been discussion about shopping credit union business partners, for example mortgage companies and auto dealers. “It’s kind of fun,” Bailey says. “There’s a tremendous amount of interest. Credit unions are overlapping their fields of membership with community charters and such, and are all offering the same products. Where they are going to get loyalty is with member service. That’s what it’s all about.” -

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