Why Choosing An FI Is Like Choosing A Restaurant

Credit unions can take a page from restaurant playbooks when it comes to optimizing their online presence.

Living in Washington, DC, it’s challenging to choose a restaurant. There are SO. MANY. OPTIONS. In fact, there are 2,233 options. This means there are 2,233 opportunities for food envy. With so many choices, where does a diner even begin the vetting process?

Location, food type, price, ambiance, and dining in or delivery all factor into choice of restaurant. Then, there’s how to get to the restaurant. In DC, there’s the metro, Uber/Lyft, and Capital Bike Share, to name just a few.

With so many choices, diners rely on online review sites like Yelp that offer reviews and photos posted by the diners themselves. Restaurants with few reviews or a bunch of five-star reviews and no constructive feedback raise a red flag. And if a restaurant isn’t listed on Yelp, diners won’t be eating there because they likely won’t know it exists.


Restaurants obsess over review sites because they want to get in front of consumers researching places to eat. They solicit and respond to reviews, use professional photos to showcase the establishment and menu items, and post accurate phone numbers, hours, and street addresses. Credit unions should similarly optimize their online branch listings.

Many restaurants have one person in charge of monitoring their digital presence. According to an article published by the Washington City Paper at least five of DC’s largest restaurant groups have employees scurrying around behind the scenes tracking patterns, making adjustments, and strategically responding to aggrieved patrons

Imagine if someone asked to speak to a branch manager and were ignored? Or if a member called for directions and was hung up on? If someone leaves a comment that goes unaddressed or contact information is incorrectly listed online, the outcome is the same. That’s not superior member service.

Incorrect contact information is inferior member service for another reason. How will potential members be able to include the credit union in their vetting process if they don’t have the right info? Even if the credit union can clear that hurdle, incorrect information essentially tells everyone the credit union doesn’t care. And who wants to bank with a financial institution that doesn’t care?

Restaurants, especially those in competitive markets, understand consumers put a lot of research into picking a place to dine. Admittedly, choosing a place to eat is a low-stakes decision. But if people put that much effort into picking a restaurant, think about how much time they spend trying to decide where to bank. It’s the same research mindset, but it’s no longer a low-stakes decision they’re making a choice that affects their lives in potentially profound ways.

Credit unions should take a hint from restaurant owners and obsess over their online presence, too. Trust is a significant factor when it comes to money, but it’s hard to gain trust when business information is incorrect on public sites. According to a Search Engine Watch study, 73% of consumers lose trust in brands due to inaccurate local businesses listings. Credit unions, take note.

One Northeast-based credit union I work with has done just that. A major initiative in 2017 was to get all its information listed correctly on all the major review sites. The result? The credit union has noted an improvement in 2018 in its local SEO and an uptick in folks visiting its brick-and-mortar branches.

What this credit unions recognizes, and many more should, is that choosing a bad restaurant might ruin an evening out, but choosing a bad financial institution could ruin a potential member’s entire future.


September 20, 2018

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