What An Acquisition Feels Like To Members

Viewed from a member’s perspective, a credit union merger presents a whole new set of challenges.

 
 

I recently mentioned that my wife’s a member of Synergy One Federal Credit Union ($179.7M, Manassas, VA), which is undergoing an acquisition by Apple Federal Credit Union ($1.3B, Fairfax, VA). It’s been more than two months now, and from our consumer perspective the whole change-over process has revealed some interesting aspects of mergers. As my wife transitioned to become a member of a new credit union through this process, I crafted three Best Practice suggestions from her experience that might be helpful for credit unions wading through an acquisition.

Provide “Change Kits” For New Members

With Bank Transfer Day garnering a lot of media attention, “change kits” have been frequently mentioned as a way to help bank customers move their money to credit unions. They’re kits that answer new members’ frequent questions, like providing pertinent contact information for common issues or spelling out the steps in the change-over process. There is no reason that a credit union can’t make similar “change kits” for the members of a credit union it’s acquiring.

Members need to know what they can expect to change with their accounts and the exact dates that they can expect that change. There’s obviously a balance, almost an art form, to these “change kits” and credit unions need to make them user-friendly. However, usually the more detailed kits will yield fewer questions for front-line staff and the fewer problems from members. Credit unions should distribute these kits across as many different mediums as possible – not just through mailed physical copies. Post it online and try to email it to them, too.

Create Change-Over Websites

When a member’s credit union being acquired, they’re going to want to know where to go online for information about the change, but they may be confused. Does the website of the credit union being acquired have all of the information? Or does the website for the larger credit union take in new visitors?

Credit unions shouldn’t have the information spread over multiple websites in a piecemeal fashion. Instead, they may want to launch a “change-over” website for a temporary time period. That way, the credit union can direct mermbers to that site, which – just like the “change-kits” – should attempt to answer the frequently asked questions.

The change-over site can even transfer over to social media. It might be appropriate to set up a “change-over” fan page on Facebook, which members can “like” in order to be sent updates. They can also use social media to post general questions for staff to answer, diminishing calls. Social media is a powerful interactive tool that can provide feedback as to what newly acquired members are really concerned about and eliminate the guess-work.

Your Customers Use More Than Just You

Financial institutions often struggle with understanding what goes on inside their customers’ lives once they leave the branch or hang up the phone. But members have a myriad of daily tasks that are heavily interwoven with your credit union. They don’t just use debit or credit cards. They also might pay their cell phone bill through ACH payments automatically out of their account. They most likely have direct deposit from their job. And they might pay their car payments via a check. As I said before, the date in which account numbers, routing numbers, and payment information changes from their old credit union to the new one needs to be clearly spelled out for members, and in as many places as possible.

The last thing credit unions would want is to make a long-time, loyal customer system doubt his or her institution. With a lot of communication and patience, an acquisition can be a relatively easy process, one as seamless as possible.