Member Experience Runs Deep In Georgia

The new member advocacy team at Georgia’s Own advocates for the member experience across technology, sales and services, and more.


Top-Level Takeaways

  • Georgia’s Own Credit Union has created a three-person team dedicated to member advocacy.
  • The new team works across all departments to ensure the member experience is always considered.

It’s hard to walk down the halls of a credit union sales and marketing department without overhearing words like member experience,member centricity, and member advocacy. These concepts are baked into nearly every credit union’s brand message and reach into every part of the organization.

But putting that message into practice can be challenging.

How can a credit union ensure a consistent experience across all channels? What if systems aren’t meeting the credit union’s goals for ease of use? What are the trade-offs between staffing costs and service levels?


Georgia’s Own Credit Union
Data as of 03.31.18

HQ: Atlanta, GA
MEMBERS: 188,189
ROA: 0.42%

To answer these questions and more, Georgia’s Own Credit Union ($2.4B, Atlanta, GA) has established a member advocacy team. Organizationally, the team sits within sales and marketing; in practice, it works across departments and tackles all kinds of challenges, from handling member complaints to working with the IT team on system enhancements.

Member experience is something credit unions have always focused on, says Shelley Mullett, vice president of member advocacy at Georgia’s Own. We’re broadening that by saying we’re here to advocate for members and make it easier for them to transact with us. We’re putting real resources behind this taking measurements, building out that experience, and improving on pain points.


New Approaches In The Midst Of Change

Georgia’s Own formed the team on April 1, 2018. According to Mullett, there wasn’t a single catalyst for the team’s creation. Instead, member advocacy in general has become an issue of strategic importance for chief marketing officer Kelly Garmon and other senior leaders.

Although officially we’re a team of 2, all 400-plus staff are advocates for our members, Mullett says, Designating specific resources gives needed focus and consistency.

The new focus comes at an opportune time. Georgia’s Own is in the midst of a complete refresh of its online applications and also is acquiring a bank on the outskirts of Atlanta. Member experience is key to the success of both projects.

A driving factor in the formation of our team was the desire to design experiences based on a deep understanding of members says Mullett, who was previously responsible for sales training and communications. The new focus has allowed us to more clearly define what member experience should look like and enable our staff to deliver quality, consistent interactions. If you’ve got multiple people weighing in and giving feedback, it’s difficult to get consistency.

Shelley Mullet, VP of Member Advocacy, Georgia’s Own Credit Union

Indeed, research by market intelligence firm IDC says customer advocacy programs are on the rise. However, lack of internal alignment across functional areas, lack of employee bandwidth, and conflicting internal priorities are barriers to effective advocacy.

Arguably, the genesis of Georgia’s Own’s focus on its own member experience began after its full system conversion to Fiserv DNA Solutions more than a year ago. The badly needed technology upgrade enabled the credit union to provide services such as remote deposit capture and automate numerous manual processes for faster service.

However, the conversion also raised questions about the best approaches to member service.

For example, the new system automated a previously manual process by which the credit union placed holds on funds under certain conditions. The new, automated process generated more complaints, so the credit union’s business transformation team, which managed the system conversion, considered several options, including in-house solutions, to address the complaints. It ultimately invested in an app that gives the credit union a more flexible, long-term solution for deciding when to place holds on deposits.

That’s a good example of what we’re trying to do, Mullett says. Instead of saying, this is what our system is capable of doing’ and this is what’s easiest to do,’ we want to look at what’s going to impact the member in a positive way.

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New Team, New Responsibilities

Nearly 2 million member service transactions filter through the credit union’s 23 branches, call center, and digital channels every year, so experience issues can deeply impact satisfaction and loyalty.

To ensure the best experience across all of those channels and transactions, Georgia’s Own has tasked the member advocacy team with a wide range of responsibilities that cover internal and external-facing functions, including:

  • Journey mapping: Examine the need for process changes, prioritize them, and focus on improving response times.
  • Member experience: Set goals for improving the member experience and help implement new processes and initiatives, such as loyalty programs.
  • Member impact: Ensure the member’s point of view is considered in all major projects that could impact member experience.
  • Member attrition: Analyze survey data to understand why members leave; develop strategies and training to minimize departures.
  • Satisfaction surveys: Analyze Net Promotor Score survey data, gather feedback, and monitor satisfaction trends.
  • Staff communication: Make sure all employees understand and reinforce the credit union’s member advocacy initiatives.
  • Sales and service training: Ensure all training and messaging is consistent with the credit union’s goals.

We are channel agnostic and work across the organization with all teams from marketing and product to project management and training on anything with member impact, Mullett says. We are beginning to track and identify trends through closed account surveys, transactional surveys, and staff feedback. And we’re also working with various areas to develop service level agreements (SLAs) and one-point resolution of issues.

Annual Service Volume

  • 1.7 million branch transactions

  • 420,00 call center transactions

  • 50,000 email transactions

Source: Georgia’s Own Credit Union

Technology And Processes

Many of the projects the member advocacy team tackles relate to technology. In the third quarter of this year, the credit union expects to roll out a new online application that is more intuitive and requires less member effort. A new phone system for member services and evolving a digital branch that focuses on the omni-channel experience are also on the horizon.

Ultimately, all of our teams have the same goal, the same desire to provide excellent service while running efficiently, Mullett says. That priority can sometimes get a little lost when thinking in terms of system capabilities, resource limitations,  and traditional process and policies. We want to work together to make sure that doesn’t happen. The goal is to have all teams think not in terms of what we can do currently or have done in the past, but in terms of what we must do to provide memorable, relationship-building experiences.

This summer, Georgia’s Own also is set to become the first state-chartered credit union in the Peach State to buy a state-chartered bank when it closes on its purchase of State Bank of Georgia, a $90 million institution that serves approximately 4,600 customers in several cities and counties south of Atlanta.

We will work with marketing and business transformation in supporting that transition to make it a seamless process for State Bank customers, Mullett says. We will explain the benefits of being a credit union member, knowing that many people have never been a member. We’ve already done a soft launch of our business services for commercial lending, which we’ll expand because State Bank already has a lot of good relationships with businesses in the Fayetteville-Peachtree City area.

Mullett adds that member advocacy affects not only technology but also business processes and staffing. Successful programs require buy-in from the top down and staff must be willing to negotiate to identify the best way to implement desired changes.

We always want to think about how staff will be impacted when we say we are going to manage to a certain expectation for the member, Mullett says. Sometimes people are working at maximum capacity, and you say they need to cut down response time from two days to one. You have to clearly define the desired outcome and work together to make it happen.


June 25, 2018

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