Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About!

Help put the right words in your employees' mouths by putting the right information at their fingertips.


Perhaps when you saw the title of this article you briefly thought about the 1995 movie starring Julia Roberts and Dennis Quaid as an estranged couple in a small East coast equestrian community. Or music enthusiasts might recognize the hit song by Bonnie Raitt. Sorry to bring you back to earth, but we’re going to talk about good old-fashioned conversations between your staff and your members.

Over the past several years, I have listened to many credit union execs and managers talk about developing a stronger “sales culture.” And while this is a worthwhile goal, it sometimes seems way too warm and fuzzy – and as a result becomes hard to implement. So if you are still searching for an effective way to get started building your sales culture, I have a simple idea for you to consider: let’s give them something to talk about!

What are we talking about?
The “them” in this case is your staff, and they sometimes need a little help to have something to talk about with your members.

When you get right down to it, there is not a more basic way to increase sales than to have your team spend more time chatting with members. Yet, in this day of information overload and busy, leveraged staff, chatting with members might seem like a waste of time. Not so!

Conventional wisdom says you need to handle member calls and visits as quickly as you can. To this point, many organizations establish goals for having quick calls and religiously measure their performance against these goals.

But what would happen if you tried to expand the conversation? Consider the experience of Digital Federal Credit Union’s call center. Counter to conventional wisdom, Digital FCU works to keep its members on the phone longer. This allows staff members to converse with members and cover a variety of topics in addition to the reason the member contacted the credit union in the first place.

So how do you create conversation?
Really, all you can do is enhance the opportunity for conversation. These four words are the keys to the kingdom: information at your fingertips. Seriously.

Just think about it, if every employee who came into contact with a member has great information at their disposal regarding specific relationship with that member, can you begin to imagine the conversation that can take place? Here are some simple examples:

  • Ms. Jones, a member, calls the call center to ask for mail deposit envelopes, and Sue the Service Representative sees on her screen that Ms. Jones has a checking account, uses online banking but not bill pay. Next to the icon showing that our bill payment is an unused service we have the following teaser message, “Ms. Jones, I see you use online banking. Have you looked into our bill payment service? It’s free and can save you both time and money.”
  • Mr. Gonzalez, another member, calls the credit union to see if he can arrange a loan payment electronically because he is just a bit late dropping the payment into the mail. While looking up Mr. Gonzalez’ information on the loan account, Morton the Member Representative sees a CD account that has been visually highlighted by turning bright green on the screen – indicating that this CD is due to mature in the next 45 days. Mr. Gonzalez is quite impressed when Morton asks him if he would like to roll over that CD into a new, higher rate, four-year CD when it matures in three weeks.
  • Mr. Smith, a member, walks into a branch to talk with Laura the Lending Representative. While getting ready to talk about Mr. Smith’s loan, Laura sees on her screen that just last week he reported a lost credit card. This alert allows Laura to ask Mr. Smith about the experience. “Did we resolve the matter?” she asks. “Was the card promptly replaced? Is there anything else we can do?”

Sure, these are relatively simple examples – and do not necessarily result in the sale of an additional product or service with the member at that point. But they are excellent examples of having and making use of specific information about past or future interactions with an individual member.

Using technology as an enabling tool.
In each case, the employee successfully expanded the conversation with the member beyond the original reason they contacted us. In doing so, they demonstrated that they are knowledgeable – and perhaps even more important – that they care about more than just transactions in the history log.

Certainly, a big part of the credit in this case goes to the employees themselves for taking the initiative to expand the interaction. But they could not have done it without having the proper tools to do the job.

The concept of having information at your fingertips implies the effective use of technology. Tools like fiVISION’s Relationship Management platform enable your employees to increase the level of conversation with your members. What is that worth to you? Hard to tell, but click here to see the kind of result this type of thinking has had at Digital FCU over the past few years.

By the way, in our next article, we’re going to talk about operational excellence. After all, if you use more time to talk with members – and end up providing more services to them – you are certainly going to need to sharpen your operational game!

fiVISION’s CRM and account opening products currently interfaces with Symitar Episys™, Open Solutions Inc.’s RDS, and XP Systems’ XP2 data processing platforms and 10+ peripheral member data systems. For more information, contact Mike Winter fiVISION at 317-612-3350 or at mwinter@fivision.com or visit www.fivision.com.



This sponsored content article is provided to the credit union community for shared insights and knowledge from a recognized solutions provider in the industry. Please note that the views and opinions offered here do not reflect those of Callahan & Associates, and Callahan does not endorse vendors or the solutions they offer.

If you are interested in contributing an article on CreditUnions.com, please contact our Callahan Media team at ads@creditunions.com or 1-800-446-7453.


March 5, 2007


  • great suggestions. looking forward to the next aritcle on operational excellence