Secrets of Member Service Success

Figure out what’s driving each member’s need and help them meet it.

September 5, 2012

Credit Union Front Line newsletter recently asked Carla Schrinner, implementation manager and senior master trainer for CUNA’s Creating Member Loyalty™ program, to share a few secrets of member service success.

Here are her thoughts, based on her 22 years of helping credit unions incorporate a member loyalty emphasis into their sales and service culture.

What’s your best advice when it comes to sales and service?

Every time you interact with a member—whether it’s by phone, face-to-face, or online—is an opportunity to learn something about that member and to leverage it.

Members don’t visit your branches for checking accounts, loans, or CDs. They have underlying needs or concerns they must address.

Your job is to figure out what’s driving each member’s need and to help them meet it. When you can do that, you move from merely order-taking to really becoming a trusted financial partner.

What’s the most common “Aha!” topic you come across in your CU training sessions?

The role of the manager in determining the success or failure of your sales and service efforts.

Managers must do so many activities, in their branches and departments, that don’t support sales or service. Managers can’t plan for sales, observe and coach staff around their sales or service behaviors, or keep an eye on results when they’re mired in operational duties or still meeting with members.

Credit unions must do a better job of assessing the role of the managers, and ensuring organizational support for making sales and service a priority.

Please share an example of how a simple change in approach can make a big difference in sales and service success?

It’s about leveraging what you learn. To illustrate the point, I routinely ask senior teams and managers a simple question: “What happens in your credit union when a member comes in or calls to change his or her address?”

Generally, they answer with the detailed specifics behind their process for handling these requests—from asking for identification, to sending out letters of confirmation to the old address, to how change forms are completed and imaged.

Then I say, “Great! What happens next?” and I wait. Slowly, the light bulb flickers, and some will say “nothing happens.” They realize that while staff in these situations did their jobs operationally, they missed a huge opportunity to learn about each member’s underlying situation.

We then discuss what might be going on in the member’s life that’s causing an address change, what he or she might need from the credit union, and the fact that the credit union has significant follow-up activities to get done!

One credit union shared that it initiated follow-up on only two weeks of address changes and came away with two mortgages and seven home equity lines of credit, and saved three members from leaving the credit union altogether. Not bad!

How have sales and service changed in CUs during the past several years?

In the past, credit unions tried to drive sales and service performance and results through training or operations. Credit unions that are successful today understand that sales and service must be an organizational initiative. All areas of the organization play roles and must be working in concert to support and drive sales and service.

Efforts will fail and results will suffer if:

  • Systems don’t support sales efforts;
  • The credit union has front-office and back-office discord or cumbersome processes;
  • Managers aren’t engaged in driving results; or
  • The senior team isn’t visibly active in removing barriers that get in the way.

What significant sales and service changes do you see on the horizon?

For the near future, credit unions know they can’t grow and survive operating in a purely reactive mode—waiting for members to come to them. Credit unions have to embrace and execute a strategic relationship development strategy—which requires data mining; sales planning; and outbound, proactive contact with members.

It has to be more than the “dialing for dollars” approach that, unfortunately, some credit unions are using with limited success. The strategy must include emphasis on getting better at serving members remotely, as well.

Relationships can be established and built in an online forum—it simply takes the right systems, talent, and focus to get it right and get results.

What is CUs’ biggest “sales advantage”?

Staff. Get the right people on board—with the right skills, talent, knowledge, coaching, and strategy—and the sky’s the limit.

Are CUs really all that different from banks when it comes to sales and service?

Not so much. Banks are aggressive in their approaches with customers and their expectations from staff.

Credit unions are carefully adopting some of those same techniques to fit their approach and still maintain their member-focused appeal.

Please explain how creating member loyalty is different from “sales.”

Loyal members are an outcome of well-defined and executed strategies for service and sales. Creating loyal members takes the actions of every employee, every day, to deliver on the best member experience possible.

If the credit union does it well, it can build strong, lifelong relationships that bring value to members and the credit union.

Contact Carla Schrinner at 608-231-4236 or at

This article first appeared in Credit Union Front Line newsletter.