6 Ways To Build A Better Onboarding Program

The first few days of membership can make or break the entire member experience. Follow these steps to provide lasting value that fosters a long-term relationship.

Research has shown time and again that a consumer’s lifetime profitability and value is determined within the first 90 days of their relationship with the organization. For credit unions, this time frame is ideal for uncovering needs and building the type of relationship members will talk about.

I’ve been a part of the credit union movement for more than a decade and have seen what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to building solid relationships. I joined Callahan & Associates as a client engagement specialist nearly one year ago and have since worked to implement a successful onboarding program. Now, I’m taking that knowledge as well as research I’ve combed from inside and outside the industry on the road or, really, online with 6 Ways To Build A Better Onboarding Program.

What did I miss? What would you add? Leave a comment below.

1. Start With Key Performance Indicators

What does a successfully onboarded member look like at the credit union? Onboarding, which is essentially relationship-building, can be difficult to quantify. Many organizations use metrics such as loan penetration as a key performance indicator (KPI) for measuring success, but there are pros and cons to that. After all, what if the new member isn’t ready for a loan?

Instead, consider what behaviors or habits the member already displays that the credit union can help streamline? That’s a way to make a big impact with little effort from the member in the first 90 days.

Also, consider the value of the data collected during this process. Does the new member have children? Are they planning a family? Have they recently moved? Are they looking for a new job? These are the building blocks of a meaningful relationship.

Finally, steer clear of shooting for the primary financial institution goal. That’s too much too soon for the typical member. Remember, this is the relationship-building stage. Would you marry someone after the first date? New members likely feel the same way.

2. Keep Communication Consistent

I’ve seen a variety of contact formats when it comes to onboarding. Whether you contact your new member once every month, follow the two day x two week x two month method, or choose something else entirely different, consistency is the key to success.

To determine an appropriate onboarding timeframe, consider how long it typically requires for a member to recognize value in credit union membership. This is called time to first value, and you want to make this time period as short as possible. BECU, for example, has a 45-day onboarding timeframe.

And, in an industry where it’s not uncommon for staff members to wear many hats, it might be worth it to invest in a full-time onboarding role, like at Generations FCU. Having a staffer dedicated to the process ensures consistency and accountability.

3. Capture The Why

Most new members don’t wake up one morning and say, I want to open a credit union account. There’s usually a reason they’re opening an account, so make sure the credit union’s onboarding fulfills that need. And when the credit union can’t say yes right away, provide realistic solutions to combat negative online reviews that can hurt the brand.

Capture, and review, the initial reasons members report for joining the credit union. Then, use this data to explore what the credit union is doing well and where there are areas of opportunity.

Remember: this is the relationship-building stage. Would you marry someone right after the first date? Your new member likely feels the same way.

Phylicia Atkins, Client Experience Specialist, Callahan & Associates

4. Build The People Circle

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, says speaker and businessman Jim Rohn. This quote usually applies to professional performance, but it could also pertain to onboarding.

Consider the financial behaviors that exist within a new member’s familial, social, or business relationships. It’s easier to provide a teen’s allowance, pay a colleague back for lunch, or send Grandma emergency funds when one can simply transfer from one account to another at the same financial institution.

Apps such as Venmo and Cash App work to fill this need, but there’s limits to the amount users can transfer. Take the opportunity during the onboarding program to extend membership to the entire family. This is also a good time to offer accidental death and dismemberment and other insurance to sweeten the deal for adding members within the same household.

5. Use Data To Solve Problems

Many credit unions use ChexSystems and soft credit reports to verify identity. Scour those reports for opportunities to help the member save time or money. Use existing ACH data to identify which members are paying other lenders or which members are paying out-of-network fees, or take things a step further and use new technology offerings to identify new ways to serve members.

These are compelling reasons to contact a new member, and few people would resent or turn down a call that saves them time or money.

6. Make Onboarding An Ongoing Outreach

Establish ongoing check-in times with new members to keep learning about their financial needs and challenges. As an added bonus, this provides a space for members to provide feedback.

A great example of this is Google Maps’ monthly Timeline Review or Lyft’s yearly review. For credit unions, reviews like this could include where members are in the onboarding process, number of transactions per month, and how close they are to achieving rewards with their debit or credit card.

The actual timeframe for an onboarding program might be defined, but true onboarding is ongoing and cyclical. The financial needs of members change over time, and they’ll need different services as they progress through life’s cycles. This is a great opportunity to provide value and remind members that they made the right choice in selecting you for their financial needs.


May 7, 2019

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