Stressed? Be a calming influence.

Talk about stress. The holidays can be a stressful time of year … even in a normal year! With collections activity up, members panicked, staff working hard to meet growth goals for the end of the year, help your credit union become a calming influence in this stressful time.

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As fun as the holidays are, they can be a stressful time of year … even in a normal year!  All of the bustling about, holiday travel, parties, shopping and eating will tend to put those of us with the most even keel to the test.  But this year is a bit different.

Throw on top of this the economic meltdown, credit freezes, layoffs and bailouts we see and hear about everyday on top of this and we’ve got a real doozy on our hands.  Collections activity is up, members are panicked, staff is working hard to meet growth goals for the end of the year … and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Talk about stress.  Everybody is wound tight and there is a healthy level of FUD in the air. (For those who don’t recognize, FUD is “fear, uncertainty and doubt.”)

The Credit Union as a Calming Influence

You probably read this heading and laughed – but it’s true.  A good deal of the turmoil we hear about makes everyday folks think they should go to their bank and pull out whatever cash they have left to stick in their mattress.  People are scared.  They see big, well-known banks failing or teetering on the edge on the 6 o’clock news every night.

But credit unions are different.  Generally, the industry is much better positioned and less leveraged than our banking counterparts – and, as a result, generally more sound.  I recently ran into a member of one of our client credit unions at a Starbucks while wearing some of their logowear.  This individual thought maybe I worked there and asked some questions about the credit union.  When I answered these questions and described the recent growth and the addition of new employees this year, the member simply smiled and said, “They’re sturdy and solid.  That’s important. And I like that.”

Emotional Responses Count, Too

This chance meeting with a member elicited an emotional response.  Yet, it was obvious that this response was a positive emotion.  This individual felt good because his credit union was not a headline in the news and was safe.  He also implied that he was getting good care as well. Otherwise, I doubt he would have spoken up in the first place.  He is probably going to continue to be a loyal, active member of this credit union.

In my opinion, credit union management and staff underestimate the sustaining power of emotion in their relationships with members.  The degree of emotion is the underlying difference between those members who are “satisfied” with their relationship and those who are “loyal”.

I was reading a short article last week about customer retention in banks (Retaining the Fickle Bank Customer).  This article encouraged banks to become more focused on service to set them apart from the competition.  Specifically, the author encourages such activities as empowering employees to provide answers and solve problems – and to recognize that emotional factors are as important as rational factors.

This is where credit unions are best positioned to excel.  Credit unions are sometimes thought of as “friendly” banks, where people know your name and your needs.  But in these stressful and hectic times what are you really doing to develop “member loyalty” that grows incrementally from a service-driven culture?

At the end of the day, how you serve your members and handle their requests will determine your success in the marketplace.  It is a lot more than “wearing a smile” or just being pleasant. It has to do with how much your entire organization knows about this individual they are talking with right now, and how quickly you can answer what they are going to ask you.  After all, they did call/walk-in/email/chat with you for a reason.

Creating Service-driven Member Loyalty

To increase member loyalty through enhaced service also takes time, but it is something you can start on today!

It involves setting up an environment where everyone knows you want to “do the right thing” for the member; staff are empowered to make decisions; and they have the right tools to do the job. Most credit unions already are doing the first two – one, they are truly interested in helping members and, two, staff is trusted to do the right thing.  The area of opportunity is whether your team has the right tools to do the job in an easy manner.

The idea is to share organizational knowledge about your relationship with the member – and I’m not talking just about the accounts and services they have with you – but, more importantly, the “soft” interactions that come up in a relationship.  Some examples:

  • A question about an unusual charge on a credit card
  • A problem with a bill pay item
  • Wanting to send a wire transfer
  • A simple question about one of their accounts

A good way to start is with basic contact management tools – a platform that will make it easy for anyone on your team to jot down a few notes that can be instantly shared with everyone else on the staff.  That way, if the member ends up talking with another employee, they don’t have to start all over with the explanation.

Moving up the sophistication ladder, how about implementing a service request system – a tool to capture, track and resolve member requests?  Make sure that you can effectively capture the right information when you are talking with the member and then get it automatically routed to the right people in the organization to resolve the request.  Maybe even sprinkle in some work management tools like escalation to help you keep track of which requests are getting “old” and need some priority attention.

Further down the line are data integration tools.  Does your team routinely visit three or four different systems to view member data and field requests?  What if your member service platform could pull all that information together so that it is right at the fingertips of your staff?

fiVISION and other companies offer several tools that enable superb service capabilities at credit unions.  Our memberWORKS platform was built specifically to address the ideas mentioned here.  Properly used, your credit union will become quicker, more efficient, and more knowledgeable about the relationships you have with your members.  Believe me, your members will notice that things don’t drop through the cracks and that your organization is very responsive. In other words, they care across the board.

The result?  Your members will develop a happy, positive feeling about their credit union as a safe, friendly place where your staff is truly interested in them.  Guaranteed, they will be with you a long time if you take care of them … and maybe they’ll even tell their friends about you.  Now that’s the way to grow your organization!

Use of effective contact management tools – like fiVISION’s memberWORKScan help your credit union be knowledgeable and responsive in fielding member requests.  This will build strong member relationships AND save you money at the same time.  If you want to find out how contact & service request management has made life easier for some of your peers – contact me and I’ll share some of their results with you.  For more information call 317.612.3350 or visit us online at



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