Try On Your Members’ Shoes

Analyze how difficult it is for members to join and transfer business to your CU.

February 1, 2012

There's an old saying, attributed to various sources, that has stuck with me over the years: To understand another’s feelings, concerns, and needs, you must “walk a mile in their shoes.”

I best remember it from an old Jerry Lee Lewis song, and it helps me understand others and make better decisions on issues that might affect them.

Today credit unions are in the limelight a lot, and they’re enjoying widespread media publicity as a great alternative to high-fee banks. New members are flocking to credit unions, creating tremendous opportunities for our movement. Yet this influx of new members brings challenges, as well.

I’m a busy person. I value my time, and seek out product and service providers that represent good value. But I also want providers that are “user-friendly” when it comes to establishing a relationship and maintaining that relationship over time.

I have a low tolerance for inconvenience, inefficiency, incompetence, and insensitivity to my needs. These four “ins” also matter to your members, in varying degrees depending on individual preferences. And how you meet members’ expectations will determine their level of use and satisfaction with your credit union’s services.

As we promote the credit union philosophy, our superior value proposition, and the quality and breadth of our services, we’d be wise to “walk a mile” in our members’ shoes. Analyze—from their perspective—the difficulties in joining your credit union and using your services throughout their lives.

Here’s an example: How easy is it for people to transfer business to your credit union? In my case, I have checking, credit cards, savings, auto loan, mortgage, and a line of credit with my credit union. My employer directly deposits my pay into my credit union account, and the vast bulk of my bills are paid through my account electronically.

If I wanted to move these services from a bank to a credit union, it would be a daunting task—requiring coordination with my employer, my bank, and my new credit union. If I wasn’t employed in the financial services industry, it would be even more daunting and confusing.

If I were an employee who had to leave work to transact this business, I’d have difficulty finding time for these tasks and on-site visits with credit union staff.

Understanding the difficulties faced by prospective new members is the first step in successfully attracting, enlisting, and serving them. Then your credit union must proactively provide tools to make the switch easier, such as:

  • Direct deposit forms for members to change the deposit institution for their Social Security checks and state and federal government paychecks; and
  • A work sheet with your credit union’s routing information, so members can record the account numbers, loan transfer information, and other pertinent data.

Providing these tools makes the process much more pleasant for the member and ensures a much higher completion rate for the transfer. From my own experience, when I begin this type of transaction, too much irritation and frustration will cause me to abort the process—whether it’s business with cable companies, phone services, retail purchases, or financial institutions.

Consider the details of your credit union’s products and services and the processes involved in signing up for them—from the perspective of the consumer. When you complete this analysis and commit to making it as easy as possible for members to enroll in and use your products and services, you’ll have great success in gaining new members.

This takes work, perseverance, and a can-do attitude. But the rewards can be great, in terms of growth and the satisfaction of helping members.

Doing the right thing in the right way at the right price is a business plan that will always be successful.

JOHN FRANKLIN is CUNA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. Contact him at 608-231-4266.