Superior service: The white lies we tell ourselves and our members

The unprovable claim of superior member service

Many credit unions hang their reputation and their brand on a claim of superior member service. Not only is this not a significant marketplace differentiator, in my experience, it is not necessarily true.

My experience

I have 100% of my personal and business banking with one of Canada's 10 largest credit unions. On the personal side, I have been with this credit union for over a decade. On the professional side, I moved my business account within the last two years from one of the big five Canadian banks to my credit union. I felt strongly that if Currency was going to work only with credit unions that we should do our business banking with a credit union.

Reality check

Eryn Fraser, our Director of Finance, works two-and-half-days a week. This means that at least once every two weeks, I visit the credit union to do the banking. I have been into the branch more than 50 times in the last two years, yet the front-line staff still don't know my name. Even though they have a seven-figure CRM system, they don't even try to fake-know me.

After I have made a deposit or paid some bills, the conversation typically goes like this: 

Tim says, "May I have my balance please?"
Jennifer or Terry says, "Are you a signer?"

Every 20 visits or so, throw me a bone with something like:

"Hey Tim, how's that credit union marketing thing going?"

Would that be so hard?

As I have made it abundantly clear on this blog, I have a personal connection with the credit union movement. Fundamentally, I don't like what huge banks stand for with their focus on driving shareholder profit above all else. However, the personal service that I received from my previous bank was actually superior to the service that I now receive from my credit union. A number of the bank tellers knew me by name and regularly asked me how my business was going and how my wife and kids where doing.

How can your credit union deliver on this superior service promise?

I have written a number of CU Branding 101 posts that describe in detail why your credit union needs to differentiate on more than service, but since so few credit unions are taking my advice, let's talk about this built-in credit union promise of superior service.

If your credit union is going to continue to proclaim that your people are your difference, your credit union needs to prove it. Everyday.

As your credit union grows, great service must be part of your organization's DNA. Great service must be a mandatory job requirement from every staff member. These simple steps would make a big difference to your members:

  • Use members' names every chance you get. If your branch is small, your staff are probably already doing this. If your branch is big, use your CRM system to remind staff of the importance of taking a personal interest in members' lives.
  • Educate your staff on the history of the credit union movement and the importance of superior member service. Your staff will respond—they want to believe in your organization and what it stands for.
  • Respond to member communications pronto. This means e-mail and voicemail need to be returned within the hour.
  • Answer your phone! This is simple, but so important.
  • Acknowledge your members as they come in the door! You typically have a front desk with a greeter—have this person actually greet your members instead of avoiding eye contact!

Is my experience isolated? Is your credit union's service really superior?


P.S. I know Jennifer and Terry because they wear name tags. Maybe I should get one!

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