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Managing Moments of Truth: Engineering a Better Member Experience at Credit Unions (Part 1)

AvatarRichard Boehmcke | September 27, 2019

Photo by Van Tay Media

Managing Moments of Truth: Engineering a Better Member Experience at Credit Unions (Part 1)

A credit union is one of the only organizations that manufacture a product with the recipient of that product—the member—present. And because a credit union’s product is service itself, service is really the one true way for credit unions to differentiate themselves in a competitive banking space.

Even if you work at a credit union, you may not know what it’s like to be a member. You don’t have to stand in line, wait on hold, have holds placed on your deposits, or go through the anxiety of a loan-approval process. This can be a disadvantage, as many members must suffer through these processes to get the services they need, and many members aren’t getting the experience they’d hoped for.

The #1 reason a member will move their checking account to a credit union is not because their offering is less expensive or comes with more perks. Instead, they are divorcing their current financial institution in favor of another, ending what was likely a long-term relationship. That means their experience with their previous provider was disappointing and they are expecting their experience with their new credit union to be much better—excellent, even.

Here are three ways to transform the member experience to make it more enjoyable, more valuable, and much easier for members.

1. Make Becoming a Member a Positive Experience

Many members start their experience with a “Join Now” button on a credit union’s website. Unfortunately, joining isn’t usually as easy as clicking a button. There’s often a wall of qualification they must get through and an application that must be printed out and brought into the branch.

On average, the cost of acquiring a new member is between $400 and $700. This puts credit unions at a disadvantage. Big banks can provide their customers with a new card and a line of credit within a matter of minutes.

In this day and age, most new members will be surprised to learn the following:

  • Most credit unions won’t open an account online.
  • Many credit unions make members complete applications on paper.
  • Many credit unions still provide new members with “Switch Kits,” but they don’t make switching to the credit union easier.

However, the ultimate moment of truth occurs when a potential member walks into the branch for the first time.

First Impressions

Becoming a member shouldn’t feel like going to the doctor’s office, where you sign in at a kiosk and what in the lobby to be called. The relationship should begin immediately, and members should be able to speak to a person as quickly as possible. Even if you don’t have the “people power” to hire a greeter, there should be tools available to get the member onboarding process started. This could be something as simple as an interactive system like an iPad.

Starting a Conversation

Of course, you’ll need to interview potential members before they join. This doesn’t have to feel like an interrogation. Instead, treat it less like an interview and more like a conversation. Once you determine them to be qualified, you’ll need to figure out which type of account the new member qualifies for. But why have multiple accounts? Why not let the member tell you what they want from their account through conversation? “Let me tell you what I need …” is one of the most powerful and helpful things a potential member can say—and “We’ve always done it this way …” is no longer sustainable for credit unions.

Instead, credit unions must map out their onboarding experience, step by step, to see what it looks like. Then, they need to reengineer the member experience so it’s easy and valuable.

2. Reengineer the Member Onboarding Process

If you were to ask someone how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they’d probably tell you that you put peanut butter on one piece of bread, jelly on the other, and then put the two pieces of bread together. However, if you were to attempt to reengineer that process, you’d have to make yourself experience making the sandwich at a more granular level. Where does the peanut butter come from? What tool do you use to apply it to the bread? What kind of bread do you use?

This is how credit unions can understand the full experience of their onboarding process, from the moment a potential member walks through the door to the moment they sign up for an account.

Key questions to ask yourself are:

  • What is our wait time?
  • What is the sign-in process like?
  • How is our signage?
  • What are guests doing while they are waiting?
  • What does our lobby look like; do we have a good lobby layout?

Most importantly, credit unions need to map out their process so they can identify opportunities for efficiencies. Technology can help, but technology alone isn’t the solution. For example, if it takes 30 minutes to sign someone up for a checking account, what parts of the process can be done later? You don’t necessarily need to do a background check before signing up a new member. That’s like asking someone their medical history on a first date; it’s awkward. You will need to verify that they are who they say they are, but that can be done later—even after they leave the branch. Instead, you can learn if they’re qualified in-person just by having a conversation. 

At the end of the day, banking is an errand. Your job as a credit union is to act in your members’ best interest, deliver value, provide high-quality service, and make conducting business easy.

3. Use the Net Promoter Score to Understand Your Member Experience

When considering the member onboarding process, an important metric to use is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). This is a score you can generate by surveying your members so you have a better idea of which members would recommend you and why—and which ones wouldn’t. The “why” is the important part of an NPS survey. It gives your members a unique opportunity to share their experiences, so you can identify both negative and positive trends, then act to address them.

Essentially, members can be asked, “on a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us based on your experience?” If you find that your NPS is low for the member onboarding process, it’s time to make it easier to become a new member.

Key Takeaways

The moment a member walks into your branch is the ultimate moment of truth. You’ll never have a second chance at a first impression. Rework everything from your lobby layout to the way new members sign in in order to make the process faster and more enjoyable.

To reengineer your onboarding process, you must map it out and experience it yourself. Search for opportunities for efficiencies. Integrate technology where possible—anything to make it a smoother and more enjoyable process.

Use software to understand and improve your Net Promoter Score. New member openings tend to have the lowest NPS. Look for processes that are leading to poor member experiences and reengineer them.