CUs Win Top Council Awards

CUNA Technology and OpSS Councils showcase innovation and sales and service excellence.

November 1, 2010

Five credit unions won top honors during the recent CUNA Technology Council and CUNA Operations, Sales, & Service (OpSS) Council Conferences, held jointly in Las Vegas.

The CUNA Technology Council’s Best Practices Awards recognize outstanding approaches to technology challenges with the potential for universal application across the credit union movement. Winners include:

•  Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union, St. Paul (information security/privacy category) for its automated SAFE (System Access for Employees) process, which reduced the SAFE process time from days to hours. Affinity Plus Federal also won an award in the miscellaneous category for its automated in-house statement solution, which automated the deployment of all statement and notice files fromone system to another  to printing.

•  Travis Credit Union, Vacaville, Calif. (member service/convenience category), for its integration of a complete application foundation for the credit union that met the needs of each business area. This included leveraging Oracle’s Fusion Middleware in the areas of data warehouse and business intelligence, enterprise content management, and business process management.

•  Envision Credit Union, Tallahassee, Fla. (miscellaneous category) for developing tools to supplement customizable software applications’ base functionality for the credit union’s specific needs.

OpSS winners

The CUNA OpSS Council’s Best Practices Awards recognize innovative solutions optimizing credit union performance. Winning credit unions include:

•  Olin Community Credit Union, Bethalto, Ill. (sales & service management category) for its sales and service culture, adopted by all credit union staff. The credit union’s strategy centered on these six elements:

1. Organization-wide training;

2. Comprehensive products & services manual;

3. Referral goals and incentives;

4. Coaching;

5. System integration; and

6. Monthly newsletter.

Results include: Members increased the number of products they use per household, and the credit union increased membership, assets, shares, and loan growth.

•  Red Canoe Credit Union, Longview, Wash. (sales & service management category) for its creative sales and service culture, based on six strategies:

1. Incentive structures;

2. Creative follow-up training;

3. Internal campaigns;

4. An intranet-based sales blog for managers and staff;

5. Quarterly management meetings; and

6. Staff recognition.

Results include: The credit union more than doubled its closed-referral ratio goal and brought in more than $7 million in competitor buyouts.

Judges selected all the winners based on strategy, process, application, and results, without regard to credit union asset size.

Small Biz And Social Media Marketing

If your staff evaluates the marketing plans of small businesses, consider this research: After rising for years, small-business adoption of social media marketing has plateaued at 24%.

That’s according to a study by Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, reported in Those that do market via social media primarily use Facebook (82%).

Although customers are connecting to businesses via sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, businesses make few sales this way.

Many small businesses (43%) also report that social media marketing efforts take up more time than they expected, down from 50% six months previously. This suggests perhaps small businesses are being more realistic about the time and expenses involved in social media campaigns.

Eccentricity Is the Mark Of Zappos

Online shoe retailer Zappos started in 1999, became profitable four years later, and achieved more than $1 billion in sales by 2009, writes Dick Richards in

What’s the secret? A little weirdness perhaps—combined with faith that putting extraordinary effort into building a desirable company culture has provided a sure path to business success, Richards maintains.

Zappos describes itself as a service company that happens to sell shoes and other products. One of 10 company values: “Deliver WOW through service.” Examples:

•  365-day return policy with free shipping both ways;

24/7 customer phone lines;

•  Live online help; and

•  Customer product ratings.

“None of which is all that weird,” Richards says. “But things do become at least different” when seen from the perspective of Aaron Magness, Zappos’ director of business development and brand marketing, who disagrees with the notion that the company is focused on customer service. “It’s focused on company culture, which leads to customer service. We don’t talk about customer service; we allow it to happen on its own by having the right people.”

The company’s hiring process is weighted 50% on job skills and 50% on the potential to mesh with the Zappos culture. Humbleness—another Zappos value—allows for greater collaboration, says Magness.

It’s not enough to make it through the interview process. New hires undergo four weeks of training, during which they must commit to memory the company culture. The training includes dealing with customers by working the phones. When one senior executive thought the task was beneath him, “we sent him home,” Magness says.

Other Zappos trademarks:

•  A company library and in-house life coach to support the company’s value to “pursue growth and learning.”

•  Performance reviews for nonmanagement employees that are based in large part on how well they participate in the culture.

•  A monthly happiness survey, measuring the health of the culture.

Questions include whether employees believe the company has a higher purpose than profits, whether their role has meaning, whether they feel in control of their career paths, whether they consider co-workers to be like family and friends, and whether they’re happy in their jobs.