Advocates For The Members

Staff has to believe the credit union’s products and service are the best around; then they can sell the members on the benefits of the credit union’s offerings.

Henry, we at Unitus have gone through a conversion ourselves, and it has been very positive for us.

The most critical aspect is tohave the staff think of themselves as advocates for the members and not as sales persons selling widgets. This perspective supports a staff attitude of Why wouldn’t you want to tell members about these products? All of our training was structured to this objective.

On the member side, think about engaging your members in an interview process. As new members about the financial products they believe they will need in the future. To the extent possible,glean this kind of information from the existing members as well. Then staff has something to work with, knowing what sorts of products and services individual members are looking for.

Here’s another critical part: the staff should believe the credit union’s products and services are the best around. Accordingly, review your products and services, and think about them with respect to members. Solicit staffinput on how to improve the products and services. Redesign them if necessary. When the products and services are the best they can be and when the staff sees them as the best in your region, it is easier for the employees to advocate for their use.When you redesign and improve products you are likely to get public recognition; make sure the staff is aware of such recognition. Staff will take pride in the offerings and will be more likely to recommend your products and services.

Set up a comprehensive training program. You might want to bring in an outsider to help at the beginning and writeguidelines for training. When we began our own shift to a sales culture, we took on the job ourselves and for the most part did not use much outside help our training staff and managers did most of our work. Given your size this might notbe possible, but do as much as you can with inside resources. This should lend credibility to the process. Part of the training can be role-playing. Your staff might not like this at first, but most will likely get comfortable with it. It gives thestaff a chance to become comfortable with the process and instills confidence before approaching a member.

Emphasize to staff that once you begin there is no going back. When you develop the program take into account the people, the products, the compensation philosophy, and the processes. Make sure the program aligns with everything in theorganization. Have total focus on it; you can’t halfway implement a sales culture. Your program will require constant management and updating to remain relevant to the staff and member. This is a journey, not a destination. Send the messagethis new advocacy culture is here to stay.

Don’t spend much effort worrying about structured timeline goals. Bring intensity to the effort when you start it, and tweak the process as you go along. It will evolve within your own culture at its own pace. To evaluate how we were doing, we begana Net Promoter Score program a year or so ago. After a time, the NPS can tell you if your new approach is having a positive effect on the membership. It lets us know how the membership is reacting to our efforts and is helpful in our incentive planas well.

With respect to incentives, keep an open mind and don’t necessarily adopt a system developed for use elsewhere. At Unitus, we worked out our own system of incentives that is not based solely on individual widget sales.The problem with such a system is employees will game it to increase their own paycheck. For us, there are individual goals, but the reward is based on a mix of individual and credit union performance. Front line staff is rewarded more for achievingindividual goals; managers are rewarded more for credit union goals; everyone is focused on meeting the same credit union goals. Come up with your own mix that works with your staff.

The key to overcoming resistance is training, training, training. And then some coaching. Roll-playing can be a big help. It will take time, perhaps a year, to see who is comfortable with a sales culture and who is not. You will be surprised; some people you think will not be good with a sales culture turn out to be stars. When employees feel they are doing good work for members, they become eager about it. For example, once an employee has sold a member on a credit card ornew loan that has saved that member lots of money, then they see the value of what they are doing. On the other hand, some staff you think will be good in sales might surpriseyou and not embrace the overall advocacy-driven approach. They might prefer hard sales and individual rewards or goal setting. Spend time to coach them for success, but if it isnot working out, then look to match their skill sets to another position in your organization to allow them an opportunity to excel.

June 4, 2014

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