Trust and Competence Grow Membership

See how leading retailers build and sustain consumer engagement.

February 10, 2014

Credit unions never lost credibility the way banks did during the recent financial crisis. But credit unions face challenges in building on their solid reputation and expanding the membership base—especially among younger borrowers.

For inspiration, financial institutions might look to retail companies outside the banking industry, according to Accenture. The consulting firm studied more than 100 leading companies—leaders in building long-lasting customer relationships—to identify innovative practices in marketing, sales, and operations.

Accenture’s model is built on these five pillars:

  1. Build a trusted environment;
  2. Enhance 360-degree analytics;
  3. Rethink the customer engagement platform;
  4. Establish all-channel distribution; and
  5. Activate organizational enablers.

Trust is the prerequisite for any successful member or customer engagement. Building trust is neither quick nor easy—it’s earned over time through consistency in words and actions.

Many credit unions pursue a broad agenda of personal service and community involvement, which aligns with consumers’ desire to see service providers focus on more than just the bottom line.

Building on that record of corporate good citizenship, Accenture’s research suggests credit unions also can develop trust by:

* Engaging members in the process of creating products and services.

For example, consider using crowdsourcing platforms to gather member insights and suggestions for new offerings. That helps identify what members really want, creates an emotional connection with members, and ultimately builds long-term loyalty.

* Making greater use of social media. Participating in “conversations” on social networks, for example, can enhance the recognition and perception of your brand and provide greater transparency into your operations.

Open all channels

Use analytics to develop a deep understanding of members—another foundation of a member-centric approach. This means collecting data from every interaction through all channels, including traditional data found in member profiles and transactions, as well as big data and social media data.

Credit unions can use 360-degree analytics to create platforms that engage members, regardless of which channel they’re using.

Analytics also can enable a consistent experience across all available channels. By taking advantage of current marketing analytics tools, credit unions can:

  • Understand member use of, and preference for, each channel—including mobile, branch, ATM, call center, and online portal; and
  • Facilitate member access to services through the most suitable channel, improving the channel’s value to the user while minimizing cost to your credit union.

Apply this approach across the entire member experience spectrum, making all channels “service and sales channels” and establishing an all-channel, member-care capability.

Organizational support

The journey toward member centricity typically requires significant changes in how your organization works—how it’s structured, how your employees behave, and the technology that supports your operations.

And while “selling” might not be an active part of your culture, it’s necessary in a competitive marketplace.

Leading nonbank firms recognize an effective sales force is essential to growth, and they typically:

* Deploy new training programs to encourage a more customer-centric mindset among the sales force, as well as to propagate recommended sales practices across the organization.

* Implement initiatives geared toward making every employee a sales and service ambassador by offering appropriate rewards and incentives.

The final critical enabler in effective customer engagement is a robust information technology infrastructure that supports digital processes and lean operations.

Widespread use of devices such as mobile point of sale, in-store tablets, and mobile apps are just some ways leading retailers have given customers a fully digital purchasing process—and these options could work well for credit unions, too.

This article first appeared in CUNA E-Scan.