Three Keys to Building a Member-Centric CU

Member loyalty, financial sustainability, and a high-performance culture are key to building a member-centric organization.

December 15, 2015

In recent years, organizations have begun to realize that success is predicated on serving members well, not pushing products.

In fact, Deloitte reports that customer-centric companies were 60% more profitable compared to companies that weren’t. It’s no wonder, then, that nine in 10 U.S. CEOs say they’re actively working to strengthen their customer and client engagement programs, according to PwC.

Refocusing an organization from sales to customers isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Elevations Credit Union, for example, recently received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s only presidential award for business excellence.

In our pursuit of the award, we spent several years re-focusing on our members—transforming our business in the process.

In 2006, before we decided to work toward Baldrige, we added fewer than 100 net new members. In 2014, we added more than 5,000.

How did we do it? We’ve found that focusing on three pillars—member loyalty, financial sustainability and a high-performance culture—is key to building a member-centric organization.

1. Member loyalty

A huge part of building a member-centric organization involves making sure your members are happy and loyal. When we first measured our member loyalty in 2011 using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) it was around 30. That’s not awful, but it’s not great.

So, while we pursued Baldrige, we put processes in place to make sure we were constantly listening and responding to our members’ wants and needs. Members told us they wanted better online and mobile banking tools so we improved ours.

We launched a social listening program so we could monitor and quickly respond to feedback on social media platforms. Most importantly, we created a cross-functional member loyalty team to determine ways to better the customer experience across the organization.

Today, our NPS is around 50, which is about 20 points higher than our nearest competitor. Plus, Elevations is consistently voted “best bank” in our local newspapers and other media outlets.

2. Financial sustainability

Member loyalty also hinges on trust: we have to ensure that our organization is set up for long-term financial success and sustainability.

For Elevations, that meant we needed to improve our focus on recruiting and serving Gen Y. These members have the potential to bank at Elevations for a long time and are often on the brink of buying cars, houses, and other major items that require loans.

In working toward Baldrige, we built processes to better recruit and retain younger members. We renewed a crucial agreement with the University of Colorado at Boulder, where our credit union originally started in 1953.

We also streamlined our account-opening process, making it faster and easier to become a member. As a result, today more than 25% of all incoming Colorado University freshmen become Elevations members, and 36% of the households we serve are Gen Y.

3. A high-performance culture

At Elevations, we needed to define ourselves as a member-centric organization in order to become one.

When we launched the Baldrige process, we were forced to sit down and ask ourselves the important questions we’d been avoiding: Who are we? Where are we headed? What do we do best?

We codified our values, core purpose, and vision first, and then created a compelling value proposition. Our value proposition quickly drove integrated marketing approaches and award-winning advertising campaigns.

Our value proposition shows our members and our community how we’re different from other financial institutions. But more importantly, it rallies our employees around a central focus.

These differentiators help everyone within the organization know what we’re striving for and how we plan to achieve it.

Pursuing the Baldrige award forced us to take a hard look at the kind of organization we were and the kind of organization we wanted to be.

While not every organization is interested in earning the Baldrige award, I’d recommend that all organizations take the time to continually ask themselves how they can better encourage a member-centric focus.

JAY CHAMPION is chief operating officer for Elevations Credit Union in Boulder, Colo.