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Some businesses seem to hit it out of the ballpark the moment they open their gates. They seem to manage to go from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye, and to many their success is a mystery. However, if you take a closer look, you’ll find that those brands that skyrocket to the top find a way to build a group of extremely passionate and loyal followers. Loyalty is a critical ingredient for a successful business as it has a ripple effect – it lowers customer churn, acquisition rates, and improves customer lifetime value.
And this doesn’t apply just for retailers. In fact, credit unions can benefit even more from building loyal communities because the whole ideology behind these institutions is a community of people helping each other out. That’s also why credit unions have members and not customers.
So, how do you build a loyal community? What changes do you need to make internally in your Credit Union to engender that kind of loyalty?
Here are a few ideas.
The Member is King. Not only is this a perfect analogy to ‘The Customer is King’ but also makes complete sense today. You need to treat your members with great care, deliver amazing member experiences and engage with them passionately. You need to make them fall in love with your credit union so much they’d never want to switch to another financial organization.
Engendering that kind of loyalty starts with building human relationships. A person will go out of his or her way to do shopping at a store where they have gotten to know the sales person, for example. A simple relationship like that where they exchange pleasantries forms the stepping stones to greater customer loyalty.
However, to get to that point, you have to start by reorienting your organization’s focus around the member. For every decision you take, ask yourself ‘how is this benefiting my community and my members?‘ ‘is there a better way to do this?’. Member obsession is a must!
If you want to build a loyal community, you need to make sure your staff understand that they can go out of their way – within reason, of course — to make members happy.
For example, not long ago, it wasn’t unusual for an employee to be chided for spending too much time chatting about personal things with a customer. Nowadays, many companies want employees to talk to customers and build relationships. Because hey, the experience trumps everything else!
When your members greet your staff by their first name and ask about their dog, while your employee asks about your member’s kids, that’s when you can say you have a real relationship.
Credit unions need to action steps that will empower employees to actually engage freely with members and build a rapport. This is something the top management needs to commit to and ensure that it is implemented as a practice at the frontline level.
Of course, it’s also about having the right member-facing staff. Members will know if and when your staff isn’t genuine. They need to feel passionate about your culture, your values and the products and services you offer. Only then does the whole building-strong-member-relationships ideology work.
Is your staff empathetic and kind? How do they initiate conversations and handle frustrated and angry members? What kind of words do they use while conversing with members? Your frontline can often be the difference between a great and mediocre member experience.
If you want to successfully build a community, then you need to show your members that you are focused on doing just that. Studies show that people “like” credit unions and community banks more than national chains. This is in large part because people like having a relationship with their financial institution – one that goes far beyond the impersonal interaction they usually have in large banks.
So, to build a community, you need to act like you are part of the community. Instead of focusing on nation-wide marketing campaigns, you would reap far greater benefits by participating in community initiatives where your branches are located.
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Improving the member experience is definitely an important stepping stone towards building that loyal credit union community. Let’s take a look at what some credit unions have done to improve the member experience.
First Alliance Goes Instant
First Alliance Credit Union prides itself on the fact that it has served the southeastern Minnesota community for 85 years. Their staff and members form a family, and they understood that to make their whole family happy, they needed to find a way to keep everyone happy, including the “I want it now” generation.
Thus, they started offering card issuance on the spot. So, members can now come in and get a card issued instantly, without a long wait or a return visit being necessary. The result was a triple-digit increase in membership over the 18 months since they implemented this new offering.
Hawaii First Federal Puts Members and Staff First
Hawaii First Federal is well-known for helping the less fortunate and being socially responsible. Throughout the years, they have done much to increase member loyalty through a wide range of programs.
For example, they instituted a program where individuals with bad credit could get a loan to buy a car so that they could get to work. They also launched two Community Resource Centers where they offer financial counseling, help with job placement and many other services to help members solve a wide range of problems, whether financial or otherwise.
Essentially, Hawaii First Federal listens to its members and goes out of its way to support them and meet their needs. But they take it a step further by providing a similar level of support to their employees, such as the Infant to Work program, where employees can bring their children to work until they are six months old. This helps reduce childcare costs for employees, improving retention and loyalty. And happy employees make for very happy members.
First Tech Federal Credit Union Helps the Community
First Tech Federal Credit Union banded together to help members and employees in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck. They sent supplies and provided ongoing assistance to their employees and members, as well as providing grants to their employees and volunteers who were affected.
And they weren’t the only credit union to step up to help. Quite a few others, including CUNA and Baster Credit Union, along with the New York Credit Union Foundation pitched in to help the community.
Now, this might not seem like it directly impacts the member experience, but consider how those people, employees included, feel about the credit union that stepped up to the plate to help them when they needed it most. Once you put yourself in the community and start caring for the people in it, building loyalty happens quite easily.