The time that members spend engaging with their credit unions is an element of economic value, according James H. Gilmore, co-author of the book, "The Experience Economy," who spoke Friday at the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference in Los Angeles.

Competing for customer time

How to go beyond services to offer compelling experiences.

March 14, 2022

The pandemic accelerated a change that was already present in consumer behavior. Consumers want to spend less time acquiring services, which allows more time for experiences.

James H. Gilmore, co-author of “The Experience Economy,” believes that a credit union’s success hinges on whether it can join that experience economy and create time well spent—and well invested—with its members.

“It’s about having people spend more time with your offering,” says Gilmore, speaking Friday at the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference in Los Angeles. “People are spending less and less time with services. They used to go to the grocery store, now they’re going online and getting pickup. The time they’re saving is now going to time in experiences. So, you have to maintain and constantly improve your services, but that’s not enough to differentiate.”

Gilmore believes that experiences are a fourth genre of economic output, following agriculture, manufacturing, and services in the progression of economic value. 

So, how do credit unions design their members’ time? How do they create memorable face-to-face interactions? What experiences are compelling enough to gain more time, and thus more business, with members?

Gilmore says there are four frameworks that credit unions participating in the experience economy should strive for:

1.    Hit the “sweet spot" among the four experiential realms: absorption, passive, active, and immersion.

  • Gilmore believes successful organizations find balance among these realms. When members interact with the credit union, they can experience passive absorption through entertainment, active absorption in education, active immersion in escapism, and passive immersion in esthetic, “the architectural term for the value of just being there.”
  • Gilmore says that credit unions looking to find their sweet spot ask four questions: What can be done to make the experience more fun and enjoyable? What does the organization want guests to learn from exploring new activities? How can the organization transport guests from one sense of reality to another? And what can be done to make guests want to just be and hang out?

2.    Mind your cues and the signals that are given out every day by employees and the environment.

3.    Engage all five senses in a signature way so that the organization leaves an impression with members.    

4.    Mix in memorabilia.

Gilmore believe now’s the time for credit unions to have these conversations, find their sweet spot, and begin participating in the experience economy. 

“Innovators have a set of assumptions about the future, and they make decisions that aren’t based on today, Gilmore says, calling on “Future Perfect” author Stan Davis’ idea that the future already exists. "Innovators make decisions today based on their set of assumptions about the future—and they help bring that future into being. Ask yourself what your vision of the future is. As Peter Drucker said, the easiest way to predict the future is to create it.”