Don't Throw Members Under the Bus

How might your CU best relate to members in crisis?

November 5, 2012

Gal Pal Michelle had an alarming drive to work the other day.

She was hit by a city bus. Head on.

Fortunately, she was not physically harmed. But Michelle’s awful story provides an interesting lesson in providing good customer service to those in crisis.

Michelle’s insurance company failed her. Despite repeated inquiries, calls were not returned, inconsistencies prevailed in information they provided, and promises made on various payout dates were broken.

The company began to attend when Michelle complained via their Facebook page.

Compare this to her interaction with the used car salesman. He remembered Michelle from years earlier—and was compassionate. He suggested cars she might like based on her previous purchases, made them immediately available to her, and respected her time and budget parameters.

He was helpful. They exchanged witty banter during the purchase process. He knew her lifestyle and her family, and he personalized the shopping experience.

How might you best relate to members in crisis? Do any of the following research findings affect them? How do you provide stellar service?

First stop: The world of work

Congress recently has passed various bills designed to kick start economic recovery through the labor market. “Job Growth During the Recovery” by the Congressional Research Service examines the legislation to determine whether it has been effective, and analyzes how various sectors and demographics have managed this crisis.

Some findings:

Meanwhile, “Retention Surveys Reveal Gaps,” reports a Human Resource Executive Online article. “Employees are somewhat less satisfied with their current jobs, particularly their pay and prospects for development—and they are starting to consider greener pastures.”

Reported here, Mercer’s 2012 Attraction and Retention Survey found “almost twice as many organizations today are reporting reduced levels of employee engagement compared to two years ago.”

About one in three workers currently considers a job change.

What about working from home? See “Home-based Workers in the United States” by the Census Bureau. Here we learn that “nearly half of home-based workers were self-employed,” and “While home workers had lower personal earnings than onsite workers did, respondents that reported working at least one day at home had significantly higher household incomes than respondents that reported working only onsite.”

Examine “The Problem with Structural Unemployment in the U.S.” by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. This report explores whether unemployment levels are a result of incompatible work skills of the labor force versus available jobs: “The evidence is overwhelmingly consistent with the view that a lack of demand, caused by the collapse of the housing bubble, is at the root of U.S. unemployment. In this context, measures that focus on improving skills… will have little effect on overall employment.”

Also see “Job-to-Job Flows and the Consequences of Job Separations” by the Federal Reserve, which examines “earnings losses of displaced workers” and explains earnings and employment of workers who leave their jobs. “We find that earnings outcomes depend much less on whether a job separation is associated with a distressed employer than on whether the separator experienced a jobless spell after the separation… Workers separating from distressed firms are faster to find new jobs.”

Next stop: Technology

Technology can be useful not only when we respond to those in crisis mode, but also in meeting our daily on-the-job duties. Awareness of its implications is important in providing good service.

Credit Unions Cash in on Mobile and Online Services,” according to eMarketer.  Noted here: “A February 2012 survey of online banking customers in the US…found that 60% of US credit union members thought their bank was doing a great job at providing innovative technology. That compared with 49% of large national bank customers…and 36% of regional bank users.”

And, “Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2013.”  This report will bring you up to speed on mobile devices, mobile apps, the personal cloud, the expansion of the Internet, and actionable analytics. “Although these forces are innovative and disruptive on their own, together they are revolutionizing business and society, disrupting old business models and creating new leaders.”

Will you be prepared to use new technologies to meet members’ growing expectations?

New bus route for Millennials

The Millennials may be moving to the front of the economic bus, according to The Atlantic.  Household formation is important to economic recovery, and Millennials currently residing “in the cozy bunker of their parents’ basement” may hold the key.

Whether they choose to buy or rent, an impact will be felt with boosts to real estate and consumer goods alike. “Economists are increasingly confident that this generation is ready to migrate into the real economy.”

Most of us have not endured the trauma, stress, aggravation, and financial implications Michelle’s bus accident produced, but we can imagine she did not enjoy herself. Unfortunately, despite their long-term business arrangement, the insurance company was an utter disappointment during Michelle’s time of need. She felt they did not relate, despite the insurance representative’s repeated statement of, “I understand.”

Lora Bray

Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.

Michelle’s aggravated response was, “Never say ‘I understand’ to a woman who has hit a bus unless you have hit a bus.”

Providing good customer service requires genuine empathy, compassion, good information, timeliness, and a desire to assist. It will make a difference in the impressions you make.

Placation, however, will only throw service providers under the bus.