A Warm Welcome Nourishes New Members

Spokane Teachers Credit Union’s onboarding program was such a success for indirect members, the credit union implemented it for all new members.

Two years ago, Spokane Teachers Credit Union ($1.7B, Spokane, WA) increased its focus on its indirect lending program. From June 2011 to June 2012, the credit union grew indirect loans 25.0% to reach $187 million. Indirect loans now comprise 14.3% of the credit union’s loan portfolio.

In January of this year, the indirect portfolio surpassed the institution’s direct auto lending portfolio, which Scott Adkins, vice president of lending at STCU, calls a watershed moment.

The credit union was capturing plenty of new members with its indirect program; however, the credit union observed those members weren’t using the credit union for more products. In an effort to become the primary financial institution for these members, STCU designed a direct, focused member onboarding program.


The primary purpose [of the onboarding program] is to introduce new members to STCU, Adkins says. To welcome them and not just sell products.

To create the program, the credit union first evaluated its portfolio. It found it was giving 60% of its indirect loans to new members; however, these members weren’t returning for additional services. The credit union’s direct mailers weren’t making a lasting impression on the new members. And within 18 to 24 months indirect members were falling off the books altogether.

Marketing materials alone won’t get you to the right place, Adkins says.

So the credit union reallocated a seasoned employee from the loan department to make warm, targeted phone calls. A warm call is the credit union’s term for a personable chat about the member’s experience and needs, and the employee makes the call with the member’s credit report in hand.

During the warm call, employees ask members how their experience with the dealership was and how a membership with STCU can benefit them beyond the indirect loan. Employees look over the member’s credit report to see if the member has a loan with another financial institution that STCU could refinance with better benefits.

Penetration falls off dramatically if you don’t reach these members by phone.

When members share their experience, it becomes a training opportunity on conflict resolution for other STCU employees. Great member service and conflict resolution means better word-of-mouth marketing for the credit union.



STCU’s onboarding program reaches 50% of new indirect lending members through three calls made over the course of several days.

Penetration falls off dramatically if you don’t reach these members by phone, Adkins says. If the credit union cannot reach the member, it then relies on a welcome letter discussing STCU’s products and services.

Employees try to contact members within two weeks of their new account opening. The calls focus on checking accounts, refinancing loans from other financial institutions, and credit cards. In the beginning one employee made all the calls, but the credit union has now added another employee, and the outreach has helped the credit union generate between $500,00 and $700,000 per month and increase new account penetration to 20% to 25%.

Adkins says the most important key to the program’s success is choosing the right people to make the calls. Employees must have outstanding phone etiquette, an understanding of the cooperative’s products and services, and a dedication for the heart of the member the credit union’s tagline.

Not to mention the credit union has the right products and services to offer.



Our products are competitively priced and are best-in-market kind of products, Adkins says.

To integrate the onboarding program with the rest of the institution, the indirect team partnered with the marketing department to design nine postcards, based on specific needs that it sends after it makes the calls. Now all materials embody the credit union’s philosophy of offering beneficial products with excellent member service.

There’s a stronger tie between the outbound calls, marketing materials, and branches now, Adkins says.

Another way the credit union interests indirect members in other products is by offering a suite of services that couple key products together to create a sweet package, Adkins says.

Developed four years ago, the package focuses on getting new members to open checking accounts. If members open an account with a debit card and set up one of several services including direct deposit, a VISA with a balance transfer of at least $2,500, or a loan refinanced from another financial institution of more than $5,000 the credit union sends members a check for $100.

Because of the suite, relationships have blossomed at the credit union, with 10% of new members taking the financial institution up on the $100 offer. And one in five of these new members takes advantage of one other new product. Over the past 12 months, as the program has tightened its focus and improved training, the credit union increased its aggregate volume of cross-sold and rescued loans by 60%.

The success of the indirect lending onboarding calls prompted the credit union to duplicate the process elsewhere. It launched an institution-wide outbound calling program in June 2012 and is averaging the same 50% penetration as the niche onboarding in the indirect lending department.

In the past, every employee called new accounts, but after seeing how dedicated resources and a strong framework paid off, the credit union allocated a specific staff person to make warm calls. Darla the sole employee that takes care of warm calling for the rest of the cooperative adds something special with her hand-written thank you notes. She also takes note of opportunities to learn more about how members view the credit union.

The warm call turns into a member survey and a great way to capture new products, says Patsy Gayda, vice president of branches at STCU.

Instead of making three calls over several days, Darla makes warm calls within the first 30 days of opening an account so as not to overwhelm members.

At the time of opening an account the members can only do so much, Gayda says. It takes a while to move relationships from one financial institution to another, plus this is about the same time the members will be receiving their first products.

And the comment the cooperative financial institution gets the most? My bank never called me, Gayda says. Members are so delighted to hear from the credit union and share their experience from the branch.

Want to learn more? Click on the articles in the Subscriber Package below for a deeper dive into On The Cusp.

Subscriber Package: On The Cusp
In With The New, In With The Old
A Warm Welcome Nourishes New Members
Member Onboarding Perfected

May 29, 2014

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