In today’s crowded financial services market, innovation is critical. It keeps products and services fresh, and member demand for what’s new never wanes.
Innovation is born out of creativity and insight. Credit unions have the internal talent to innovate, but sometimes they can also learn from the creative examples provided by outside industries or non-traditional financial services providers. Throughout 2014, CreditUnions.com has highlighted and analyzed their relevance of these examples to the credit union industry. As 2014 comes to a close, I'm listing some of my favorites:
9. Not Another Comic Book Movie
2014 was a dud for Hollywood, thanks in large part to an underwhelming summer season that earned approximately 15% less in sales than 2013. Are moviegoers so fatigued from the incessant comic book and sequel releases that they've decided to stop spending money on a genre whose new releases are not all that different from old ones? Or did movie studios bet on the wrong demographic when they released selections primarily targeted to men between the ages of 12 and 25, two demographics that posted 2014 attendance declines of 15% and 17%, respectively? Is it a mix? Or something altogether different?
Auto-sharing companies such as Uber, Zipcar, and RelayRides reduce the need for auto loans among young credit union members in specific areas of the country. Regardless of physical local, however, these companies highlight why credit unions need to make sure old business models still meet the lifestyles of new members.
In late September, Walmart introduced a checking account offered exclusively at the retailer. Walmart’s second foray into the financial services industry is meant to attract fee-wary unbanked and low-income shoppers. GoBank’s impact on credit unions is unknown, but Walmart has created something worthy of the attention of financial services providers.
Banks and credit unions have spent the past few years trying to determine what the future of payments will look like. They've developed technologies and have partnered with technology providers. But other companies are considering the future of payments, too. Venmo’s social peer-to-peer payments app, Facebook’s buy option, American Express’ prepaid Serve card — all have lessons for credit unions.
Silicon Valley startups such as Square, Kabbage, and Funding Circle have entered the small business lending arena to varied public reaction and success. Here, lending officers from Numerica Credit Union, Coastal Federal Credit Union, and Digital Credit Union consider the threat these startups pose to traditional lenders.
Shifts in consumer behavior require shifts in retail and distribution. For example, compared to years past, today’s retail environment more highly values mobility, efficiency, and agility. Self-service options such as vending machines and spontaneous “pop up” stores provide creative examples of how business leaders are reaching the public in ways that traditional retailers cannot.
Companies that have reputations for excellent customer service build their organizational philosophies around positive customer interactions, instilling it into employees to the point where it becomes second nature. Citing three companies with excellent customer service reputations — Publix, Zappos, and the Ritz-Carlton — we identify eight strategies credit unions can steal to improve their own customer service.
Credit unions maintain modest budgets and operate a consumer-facing model that requires a certain level of professionalism in the workplace. Companies such as Nordstrom, Zingerman’s Deli, and Google provide three examples of common elements outside industries use to create envy-eliciting workplaces and show how credit unions can put different principles to work in their own, slightly modified way.
Samuel Blatt was the first TCBY owner to adopt the self-serve model and launch a TCBY food truck. His story underscores the importance of identifying and responding to industry trends and creating new ways of doing business.