Years ago, Cabrillo Credit Union had an advisory committee of members who served primarily as ambassadors spreading the word about the credit union. Efforts to revive that committee last year hit a brick wall. “No one showed up at the meeting,” says Jennifer Vega, project manager at the $170 million asset credit union in San Diego. “We realized we had to do something different.”
Part of the difficulty is the membership make-up. Although Cabrillo has multiple select employee groups (SEG), its three core SEGs include people with erratic work schedules, such as nurses, firefighters, police officers, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees. Scheduling outside meetings is difficult for people with unpredictable schedules.
So Cabrillo struck on the idea of having an advisory council—called Inner Circle—that handles all its tasks online. “We figure they can engage when it’s convenient for them,” Vega says.
The council’s composition reflects Cabrillo’s designated primary target group: people ages 18 to 35 from the three core SEGs. Thirty-two members are now active in Inner Circle. One of their key tasks is to beta-test new products and services. For instance, they were instrumental in shaping the remote deposit product Cabrillo introduced last year.
“They told us what didn’t work and what was confusing,” Vega says. “By the time we rolled out the program to the rest of our membership, it had been refined.” The Inner Circle participants will serve a similar function before Cabrillo launches mobile banking.
One advantage of an online advisory group is that it’s easy to have lots of members. “The bigger the better,” Vega says, especially when it comes to product testing. The major challenge, on the other hand, is keeping people engaged.
“We can capture them with a product beta-test, but then we don’t have anything for them for a while,” Vega says. “It’s better to have constant activity because once you lose them for a bit, you almost have to start the engagement process all over again. We’re still working on that part.”