Developing a strong member journey includes an effective onboarding program, which is one of the most important growth strategies credit unions can employ, says Paul Robert, CEO of FI Strategies LLC.
“The process of ensuring a positive experience, saying ‘thank you for your business,’ and deepening a relationship over time should be central to all efforts to grow,” he says. “It takes a lot of time and effort to drive new members in the door, but a credit union is only scratching the surface of potential if it’s satisfied with just that one account.
“Seize the golden opportunity in the days and months after the new account or loan to thoroughly impress the member,” Robert continues. “That way you’ll earn future business and likely a positive referral to friends and family.”
Credit unions must focus on growth and remaining relevant to their membership, he says, and the right onboarding experience allows them to accomplish both.
“A regimented onboarding process will result in members using more products and services, which translates to growth and being top-of-mind,” Robert says. “Credit unions that try to grow and be relevant without an active onboarding focus are trying to fight with one arm tied behind their backs.”
The ultimate goal to onboarding is building relationships, says Bryn Conway, principal of BC Consulting LLC.
“Credit unions that do this best take the time to get to know the member,” she says. “They ask members why they joined, follow up to ask about the experience and how they can assist with their finances.
"Just as in our personal lives, we have to work at relationships. Our goal as credit unions should be to ensure members feel fulfilled in their relationship with us and want it to continue to grow.”
‘Give members a reason to trust you and see you as an expert.’
If the goal is to be your member’s trusted adviser, you must give members a reason to trust you and see you as an expert, says Jayne Hitman, CUNA’s national relationship manager.
This starts on day one. “Member onboarding is multidimensional,” she says. “First, what are you doing to get prospective members in the door or interested in joining?”
Next is the first impression you make, Hitman adds. “The first encounter sets the stage and has a lasting effect on the member relationship. That means your team must be highly trained in soft skills to build member comfort and confidence. Understand the member as a whole, not just by the products they use.
“Also, you need a plan for ongoing purposeful connections with members,” she continues. “I’m talking actual contact—a call, email, or text—about the specific member reflecting the conversation you had, not a pre-populated general marketing piece.”
At 717 Credit Union in Warren, Ohio, employees are expected to engage with new members at least four to five times during the member’s first 90 days with the credit union.
“Research shows this time period is important for member/customer engagement and for developing a ‘sticky’ relationship,” says Kathy Cumberworth, vice president, sales and service, at the $1 billion asset credit union. “This is the greatest opportunity to set up how our members see us in the future.”
Angela Hanson, chief innovation officer at $300 million asset Heartland Credit Union in Madison, Wis., says the credit union’s executive team sat through an account-opening process to gauge the journey that new members experience.
“This allowed us to collaborate on how to improve one of the first touch points a new member would have with our credit union,” she says. “Over the last year, we’ve been working on removing friction points for both our members and our employees. This gave us action items needing addressing, starting with anything the member would experience first.”
Consumers want processes that are fast and easy, Robert says.
“They’re not comparing credit unions’ service to other financial institutions; they’re comparing it to how fast and easy it is to get in and out at Chick-fil-a or to shop with Amazon,” he says. “As a result, credit unions—especially those serving a younger, more mobile demographic—must have a crystal-clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses in creating experiences for their members. If they don’t, many members will find a financial institution that does.”