The Trouble with Enigmas

Don’t assume members will figure out the CU difference on their own.

August 13, 2012

One of the curses of my English major/librarian status is that I like to peruse the dictionary.  For fun.

An interesting word I considered recently is “enigma.”  According to The American Heritage Dictionary, an enigma is “One that is puzzling, ambiguous, or inexplicable.”  We may find that enigmatic entities initially create intrigue and curiosity, and perhaps warrant further investigation.

However, interactions cloaked in such mystique can also create confusion, frustration, irritation, and even weariness as riddles remain unsolved due to lack of decipherable data points, confusing communications, or inconsistent behaviors.

Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Bray is research librarian at CUNA.

Are any of your business practices enigmatic?  Have you considered the importance of transparency in meeting members’ needs? How about among interactions of various departments?

Consider points made in a CMS Wire posting, “Social Business: Transparency is Good for Business.”    This article maintains that “Customers want increased transparency when interacting with companies because then they can make sure they really get what they want or need from the company.”

It also states, “Companies…should also want increased transparency… The information they exchange with the customer will help them understand the customer’s wants, needs and situation, as well as adjust the expectations of the customer to a reasonable level.”

A final point: “The information that is captured about the customer during this process can be fed into other parts of the enterprise, such as R&D and marketing, to help them learn how to make better products and services…” thus creating more positive interactions and efficiencies.

A post on the entrepreneurial blog, “Big Girl Branding” expands on this with seven transparency concerns.  Among them: the accurate disclosure of facts will create comfort and correction, and the admission of failures will allow customers to extend understanding and inspire confidence. Secrets alienate, and the disclosure of other companies with whom you associate will be appreciated.

All of these considerations appear to be important in creating and sustaining valuable relationships with your current and potential members.

Do you allow transparency to foster trust?

Other straightforward research tidbits this week provide clues to help you unravel some mysteries and facilitate positive and open exchanges.

Good versus evil

The Riddler of DC Comics said, “Riddle me this, Batman…” as he annoyed with vexing clues. 

For consumers, fraud-fighting strategy clues are revealed by the Federal Trade Commission in “Taking Charge: What to Do If Your Identity is Stolen.”

This handy resource provides straight talk to share with your members should any of them have to deal with this unfortunate reality.  It provides step-by-step guidelines for obtaining credit reports, filing alerts, and so on.

Marketing mysteries

Are any credit union staffers confused?  According to Gallup, “Your Employees Don’t “Get” Your Brand,” and “aligning employees with your brand’s identity is essential to a company’s success.  But too many employees don’t know what you stand for.”

This article illuminates the disadvantages of such a situation and provides three pieces of the puzzle to help make employees “effective brand ambassadors”:

* Knowledge of your organization’s uniqueness in the marketplace and what you stand for;

* Knowing your brand’s promise and ability to explain this brand identity; and

* Empowerment to “deliver on your brand promise.”

Another marketing clue is unearthed in Nielsen’s “Successful Brands Care: The Case for Cause Marketing.”

This report advises organizations interested in expanding their cause marketing initiatives to start with “a close examination of expertise and an assessment of how that expertise aligns with the expectations of both customers and society as a whole.”  Social media is important in communicating your efforts.

Speaking of decipherable data points... “Don’t Ignore Boomers—The Most Valuable Generation,” Nielsen warns.  This mighty economic demographic spends “close to 50 percent of all [consumer package goods] dollars, yet less than 5 percent of advertising is geared toward them.”

Boomers will “control 70 percent of the disposable income in the U.S.” over the next five years, and will inherit about $15 trillion in the next 20.  “It’s clear that taking their loyalty for granted, or forsaking them for being too loyal or set in their ways, are both risky approaches for marketers.”

Unemployment ugliness

Some news that hurts is found in “Identifying Those at Greater Risk of Long-Term Unemployment”  by the Urban Institute.  “Older workers, women, and those with more education are less likely to become unemployed than other workers but, once they become unemployed, they are disproportionately more likely to experience long-term unemployment.

“In addition, older workers, women, and unmarried adults without children have made up increasingly larger shares of the long-term unemployed since the recession’s end.”

The recession created a situation in which unemployment benefits have been paid for longer periods of time.  Some are concerned that those who may not be needy are getting more than they should.

In “Receipt of Unemployment Insurance by Higher-Income Unemployed Workers (“Millionaires”)”  by the Congressional Research Service, we discover about .02% “of tax filers receiving unemployment benefit income had [adjusted gross income] of $1 million or more in tax year 2009.”

Edgar Allen Poe said, “It may well be doubted whether human ingenuity can construct an enigma…which human ingenuity may not, by proper application, resolve.”

But, we know the financial services industry is competitive.  Consumers don’t have the time or inclination to solve riddles, decipher cryptic messages, or unwrap enigmas.

Why not let your members focus on the credit union difference that you make obvious?  Don’t assume they will “figure it out” on their own.

There will be no mystery in the resulting loyalty.

LORA BRAY is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.