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LAS VEGAS – If you’re old enough, you may remember the days when a gasoline station was a service station, with emphasis on the word “service.” Attendants checked the oil, eyed the tires to make sure they were properly inflated, washed your windshield, and – oh yes – pumped the gas. Today that has changed to a pump-your-own-gas and pay-at-the-pump environment. At the same time, instead of cultivating any loyalty to the neighborhood gas station, motorists carefully eye posted signs to determine who has the lowest price today. Scott McKain sees that as one track American businesses have taken. McKain is co-founder of the Valued Added Institute, a think tank that looks at consumer experiences and loyalty. He’s also author of the book “What Customers Really Want.” McKain notes just as some businesses have eliminated features once taken for granted in terms of service, other organizations such as Nordstrom have done a terrific job of creating positive customer experience and raising the bar on expectations. In his book, McKain indicates that in financial services it costs $280 to find a new customer or member compared to $57 to keep a consumer. “In general, there is a decreasing amount of loyalty,” he says. “But it seems to me if there is any organization anywhere that should be focused on loyalty, it’s credit unions where you’re a member, not a customer. It’s not about the transaction, it’s about membership. “Loyalty is reciprocal. The thing I would ask any organization, but particularly a credit union that finds its membership eroding, is to tell me three to five specific activities you’re doing to be loyal to your members. The next question is which of these activities are new this year.” If the answer is the credit union has been doing this for 20 years, McKain cautions the old clich may apply – you have one year’s experience repeated 20 times. In today’s society focused on instant gratification, members have developed a great thirst for variety. “That’s challenging, because it means the credit union has to be innovative and come up with new ideas and new programs. But it’s worth the time and effort, and a little bit of investment,” McKain says. CEOs often focus on things they can measure. Convenience and service are translated into speed at the drive-through. But in his book McCain cautions that rushing customers through, for example, a fast-food drive-up operation is not serving people, it’s processing them. Yes, a quick pace at the drive-through is important, he acknowledges. But one reason members want to be part of a credit union is they are more than an account number. A key motive for joining a credit union is that feeling of personal commitment. Many credit union executives point out that today, the first thing the member asks about is the rate. “That’s because you’ve done a great job of training the member to ask about the rate,” McKain responds. “Most financial institutions lead off with the rate. If the member doesn’t know anything else to ask, we haven’t done a very good job of educating them. If you don’t tell your story, who will?” In his book McKain cites a BearingPoint study indicating only 22% of financial services executives believe their customers would actively promote their services to family members and friends. If your members are a key source of growth, McKain says that’s a great sign. In fact, it’s the most positive indicator you could have. Recommending someone to handle your money, such a sensitive subject, is far more significant that referring someone to the store where you purchased your shoes. If you want to encourage referrals, McKain suggests you remember the rule that behavior rewarded is behavior repeated. He also suggests other rewards may be better than cash. “So many groups will say, `Hey, here’s $25 for a referral.’ It needs to be other things – tickets for two to a ball game, an entre free when you buy two. The member can maybe take their friend, the new member. You’re not giving a bounty on the friend.” And don’t forget employees. In fact, McKain doesn’t like the idea customers, or members, come first. He does embrace the concept employees come first because employees won’t treat members any better than they themselves are treated by the credit union. He agrees it’s especially true in a time when many major companies such as airlines are cutting back on employee benefits and trying to balance their books on the backs of employees. Where are those exceptional new employees who can attract members? McKain believes they’re likely relatives and friends of your current outstanding employees. Ask your current top performers for recommendations. He sites the example of a factory where production line workers have become the HR hiring department. The quality of referrals really grows, he emphasizes, when employees realize they will be working beside the people they recommend. “What a compliment for a manager to say to one of their best employees, `I need more of you.’ People tend to hang out with people like themselves,” McKain says. “Twenty years ago I attended a National Speakers Association session for beginning speakers. One of the presenters said, and I’ll never forget this, `If you’ve got a bank account close it. Go to a credit union. Banks invest in businesses. Credit unions invest in people.’ “That’s when I became a credit union member. I would ask, `Are you still meeting that standard?’” [email protected]

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