Ellen Harnischfeger
Ellen Harnischfeger

A True Collaborator

Monthly 'Champion Calls' rally the troops, build morale.

December 24, 2015

AS TECHNOLOGY improves efficiency and service at credit unions, there’s one thing that seems to be disappearing: personal interactions.

But at $750 million asset The Summit Federal Credit Union in Rochester, N.Y., Ellen Harnischfeger, retirement and investment services coordinator, makes sure members receive a personal touch.

“In today’s high-tech society, I believe it’s more important than ever to continue serving people in our community and to provide personal member service. Their membership is vital to our existence, and we truly care about their financial future,” Harnischfeger says.

Personal touches have a big impact on today’s younger generation who are accustomed to getting service behind a smartphone or a tablet, she says.

“It’s imperative that we teach our younger generation that one-on-one consumer relations will help them achieve financial success and stability,” Harnischfeger says.

Harnischfeger also tries to increase interaction with colleagues inside the credit union. Instead of relying solely on email to communicate, Harnischfeger holds what she refers to as “Champion Calls” every month with more than 20 branch champions across the credit union.

“We take this opportunity to discuss current referrals, appointments, and roadblocks; share success stories; review current internal promotions; and monitor program results for their teams,” Harnischfeger explains.

The calls boost morale, according to Laurie Baker, The Summit Federal’s chief operating officer.

“She rallies the troops this way and helps build their confidence,” says Baker.

Harnischfeger also serves on the “SumFun” committee, which plans employee events, such as holiday parties, Halloween costume contests, and summer picnics.

Harnischfeger believes that the employee culture can directly influence member experience.

“I am very passionate about helping my fellow employees help our members. When someone feels confident and respected, they pay it forward to our members. And without happy members, we wouldn’t flourish,” she says.

Credit unions need to grow more leaders like Harnischfeger, says Baker.

“Ellen is a true collaborator. Although she doesn’t currently hold a management position, she’s still able to rally the troops. Employees at all levels of an organization can make a tremendous impact on culture, employee morale, member satisfaction, and the bottom line,” Baker says.