A decade ago, the chief experience officer (CXO) position was a rarity in credit unions. Today, the CXO plays a key role in defining the look and feel of the credit union’s internal and external brand.
When members walk into a branch, use mobile banking, or contact the call center, the CXO makes sure each interaction is seamless, consistent, and transparent.
The CXO role is equal parts marketing, operations, and human resources, and requires strong, visionary leadership.
Taking ownership of the member journey at First Service Credit Union in Houston led to Dan Souers’ appointment as CXO at the $1.4 billion asset financial institution.
The catalyst for the organizational change was the Disney Leadership Institute, he says.
“Our CEO [Dave Bleazard] brought Disney in to help us capture what our culture is and who we are,” Souers says. “As we were doing that, I did research on my own about how Disney operates. I learned about member journey maps and began to understand that’s how we need to address different issues.
“I was working with different departments, talking with members, identifying issues, mapping them out, and then fixing the identified issues,” he continues.
The move to CXO was a natural development for Souers, whose career began in digital marketing and marketing research. He worked for a credit union in Alabama before joining First Service as vice president of marketing.
“I've always been fascinated with leadership and how to drive business results beyond the marketing discipline,” Souers says.
He says the CXO role allows him to apply those interests throughout the organization.
“Not only am I improving the member journey, but everybody likes it,” Souers says. “Different departments like it because there may be pain points they’ve had for years they thought were normal. The members like it because they get a better experience with the credit union.”
At $4 billion asset Northwest Federal Credit Union in Herndon, Va., Chief Experience Officer Erin Krause is also working on a journey map of the member experience. Like Souers, she’s working cross departmentally.
“As a team we’re testing every product and service we have to understand what the member has to go through,” Krause says. “Our goal is to make it easier in any way we can. We want to make it so easy for them that they have no reason to go anywhere else.”
Krause’s CXO responsibilities include the employee experience.
“Member service relates directly to the employee experience,” she says. “I want to make sure our employees have the best training and the best support internally. Having happy employees converts to great member service. We work hard, and we are invested in employee engagement.”
Krause has worked at Northwest Federal for 43 years, most recently as senior vice president of lending. “I started our mortgage and loan servicing areas more than 20 years ago.”
As CXO, her role is to ensure member and technological needs drive every line of business. One way the credit union does that is through holding focus groups of 18- to 35-year-old members.
“We’re treating them similarly to a select employee group,” Krause says. “We’re showing them our products and asking them why they chose Northwest. We want this to be their credit union for their entire financial journey.”
Providing members with that feeling of ownership is about accessibility and ease of use, says Michelle Shelton, CXO at $1.1 billion asset Great Lakes Credit Union in Bannockburn, Ill., and vice chair of the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council.
“Since the pandemic, there’s been an increased focus on digital channels,” she says. “We are committed to integrating that seamless experience for members across all our channels.”
Shelton began her career in banking and worked her way up through leadership positions in branch management and marketing. She eventually took over retail and call center operations at a West Coast institution, where she became CXO.
Similarly at Great Lakes, the call center and branches reported to different people before Shelton arrived.
“That’s what the role of the chief experience office is all about: One leader driving the brand internally and externally across the organization with a consistent focus on delivering an exceptional member experience,” she says.
Looking ahead, Shelton is seeking reliable partners to elevate the journey for Great Lakes members.
“Along with the increased emphasis on digital use, fintech companies and technology CUSOs have developed a strong presence in retail delivery over the past couple years,” she says. “We’re looking for technology partners to help us expand our growing portfolio of offerings. We look forward to empowering members with additional financial services and solutions we can’t build in house.”
Krause says Northwest Federal is also exploring the fintech waters, as well as the benefits of artificial intelligence.
“Like most credit unions we get thousands of calls a day,” she says. “We’re exploring how a chatbot can improve that member experience.”
First Service continues to work toward a 100% digital experience for members who prefer remote access, Souers says.
“From a loan perspective, we’ve made great progress since the pandemic,” he says. “If members want to do everything remotely with us, they can. At the same time, if they want to visit a branch, we’re always here.”