Coastal Credit Union Vice President, Brand and Member Experience Charlene Foley.

Member moments that matter

Coastal Credit Union’s Charlene Foley looks to bring delight, wow factor to consumers.

July 5, 2022

Coastal Credit Union in Raleigh, N.C., hired Charlene Foley as vice president, brand and member experience, in April.

She ingrained herself in the $4.2 billion asset credit union’s culture immediately to give members moments that matter.

Foley spoke with Credit Union Magazine about her transition to Coastal, the meaning of member experience, advice for young professionals, and why community service and member satisfaction are important to her.

Credit Union Magazine: What led you to take on this role?

Charlene Foley: My work has typically been within the healthcare sector. But once I was introduced to the member experience area, that took over and was where my passion ended up going.

I knew I wanted to do more with member experience, and what it means to be a leader in that business capability. I sought after roles outside the healthcare industry so I could broaden my horizons and continue to learn.

Q: What are your priorities?

A: I've come at a great time in the organization because, like many companies, we’re determining our new normal and pivoting due to the pandemic. There's a lot of strategic planning and innovation going on in the company.

So, my coming on board this year has allowed me to already immerse myself in the strategic planning process.

Not only am I immersed in strategic planning, I’m also looking at where we’ve excelled in the member experience in some form. I'm not here to replicate that good work but to assess what's already been accomplished, fill in gaps, and take us forward into an intentional future that puts our members at the center of our decisions.

Our members’ financial well-being and our ability to bring innovative, personalized, and easy-to-use products and services to them are top priorities.

Q: What are your early impressions of working at Coastal and in the credit union industry?

A: I love the environment at Coastal. It’s an amazing group of leaders and colleagues who really care. They're extremely collaborative. There were cultural qualities I was seeking out and Coastal checked all those boxes.

One of my personal goals was to come into this role and give what I know—and also to learn.

I would love to create a consortium and get to know other member experience leaders. Please reach out to me!

‘We've got to rise beyond expectations to create delight in members’ financial journey and memorable experiences with our brand.’
Charlene Foley

Q: What does member experience mean to you?

A: Leaders with this title typically look through the same lens, which is understanding the totality of the relationship a consumer has with the brand and their perception of that over time. That's the broadest definition, but it's what the organization does about that definition that matters.

So, for me as a leader, it’s about digging in deep to find the moments that matter across the member journey. We've got to rise beyond those expectations to create delight in members’ financial journey and memorable experiences with our brand.

Q: How does the member experience at Coastal differ from your past jobs?

A: The structure and business capability of member experience is fairly similar no matter what industry you're talking about.

But there are parts that make it unique, which is the exciting part. How we define our brand and shape our member experience is specific to Coastal and what sets us apart.

Q: What qualities have helped you throughout your career?

A: Curiosity and teamwork—supporting my peers, and collaborating. There's no way I could do my role in isolation. I can't think of another role that has so much breadth and depth, which is what attracted me to it. 

You need to have internal knowledge and a sharp acumen and knowledge of all the functions of the business. But you also have to understand what's happening externally and how members are interacting with you. When those two meet, there shouldn't be friction.

That's where curiosity, including a systems-thinking mindset, has helped me enjoy the role and do well in this type of position. 

Q: What advice do you have for someone looking to get started on the member experience path?

A: Learn what member experience management means and seek to apply this knowledge to your organization. Newcomers tend to have their own definition without rooting it in a structured business discipline model.

Some believe it's a function of marketing, while others think it means customer service in a call center.

They're not wrong, it's just broader than that. It's the totality of interactions and perceptions when a member is interacting with a brand. That's represented in so much of what a company does and across many functional areas.

Understand the business capability first so you go in with eyes wide open.

Q: You’ve served on the board of several organizations. Why is community involvement important to you?

A: My community is where I live, work, and play. It's a non-negotiable that I give back in meaningful ways, whether it’s with my alma mater, my church, my children's schools, or the community.

That's something my husband and I have tried to instill with our children. It's important to always learn and be involved in your community.

Q: What’s the best vacation you’ve been on?

A: My family went to Costa Rica earlier this year. It was so fun on many angles. We all got to be together and enjoy an active vacation, from snorkeling to fishing to sightseeing.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

A: Spend time with family, golf, and be active outdoors.