Customer service is not enough. The ten commandments of customer advocacy.

Your member has needs. Your credit union has the products and services to fulfill those needs. Simple enough, or is it? You have 100’s of complex products and each member has their own unique needs. Trusted advisors go beyond traditional customer service and proactively address the needs of their customers.

 

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Your member has needs. Your credit union has the products and services to fulfill those needs. Simple enough, or is it? You have 100’s of complex products and each member has their own unique needs. Trusted advisors go beyond traditional customer service and proactively address the needs of their customers.

I’m Joe Member and I need a home. I approach my credit union for a $360,000 mortgage. My friendly customer service rep explains the jumbo rate is 6.5%. I do a quick search online and find a local mortgage broker. Skeptically, I call the broker, who proposes a combination loan, which combines a lower cost conforming loan with a home equity loan from a local bank saving me $200/month. I also need to save for retirement. I ask the platform person at my local credit union to help me open an IRA. ‘What type of IRA would you like to open?’ I’m politely asked. Good grief, there are types? I decide to see my tax advisor. He tells me I qualify for a $3,000 Roth IRA and sends me to his brother-in-law the financial planner.

There is something terribly wrong with this picture. In both cases the credit union representative provided friendly customer service, but it just wasn’t enough.

The challenge is formidable:

  • Your product set is broad, dynamic and complex. Your competition focused.
  • Your lowest paid staff people interface with your members.
  • Frontline staff suffers high turnover. Basic product competency is an issue.
  • Most training focuses on products, not on needs-based, solution selling.

The good news is your members put more trust in your credit union than virtually any financial service provider out there. To make the most of this opportunity consider the following 10 commandments of customer advocacy:

  1. Thou shalt not push the product of the month on thy members, but rather take the time to understand their individual needs.
  2. Thou shalt advocate for thy members and proactively recommend the very best product(s) for their needs.
  3. Thou shalt empower all member facing staff to be advocates. Endless referrals do little to build trust in the eyes of your members.
  4. Thou shalt provide advice, advocacy and educational content via your web site, otherwise your member will get it from a competitor’s site.
  5. Providing advice and advocacy is a time consuming and expensive process. Thou shalt maintain low costs, by using technology to automate the process.
  6. Thou shalt support frontline staff for their plight is a difficult one. Your staff need tools to do their job effectively.
  7. Thou shalt cross-sell thy member, in a relevant and value-added manner. Don’t push unnecessary or irrelevant products on your members.
  8. Thou shalt consistently serve the cross-channel needs of thy members. Your member may research online, query the call center and apply in the branch. Consistency and continuity is key.
  9. Thou shalt document and train thy staff on best practices. Listening skills are the very hardest of selling skills to instill.
  10. Executing on customer advocacy will affect nearly everything you do. Thou shalt empower everyone in the credit union to do what’s right for thy member each and every time. Develop a plan that puts the right incentives, processes, technology and organization in place to support customer advocacy.

Let’s revisit Joe Member’s situation according to the gospel of customer advocacy. Joe should have gotten the recommendation for the combo loan right off the credit union’s web site at 10:00pm the night before ever contacting the mortgage broker and saved not $200/month, but $250/month plus $1,200 in closing costs by doing business with the credit union. The platform rep should have been equipped to confirm that Joe did indeed qualify for a $3,000 Roth IRA, opened a no cost account with a short-term IRA CD on the spot and made a qualified referral to the investment representative. That’s customer advocacy and going the extra mile will build enduring, profitable relationships with your members.

Experion Systems provides automated advice technology to enable cross-channel customer advocacy. Experion’s trusted advisor solution is generating outstanding results at a growing number of credit unions. To sign up for Experion’s periodic e-newsletter click here,or to learn more visit their web site at www.experionsystems.com.

 
 

March 8, 2004


Comments

 
 
 
  • Great example.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • This is similar to what management has learned in Coaching Training. A great reminder!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Excellent, I agree with everything that was stated. There are too many "departments" and too little time asking open ended questions to arrive at an educated solution. Turnover issues cause the most suffering to the member that would like to build confidence. Confidence does not get established overnight with a 'new face'.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Am a consumer looking for a CU to join..Am not a corporate person...Have not received the information I was looking for...
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • This article lets you as the employee see through the eyes of the member.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Are there other alternatives to Experion? Experion is a wonderful system but it is very expensive. Is there a stepping stone for smaller CU's?
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • It's totally advertising disguised as "advice", which doesn't sound like Customer Advocacy to me. While I like the Experion product, this is not an unbiased review of the product, it's an ad.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • This is eveything we are trying to get our staff to acknowledge...service is more than being friendly, its finding ways to serve the members.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Great article! Credit unions only need to learn how to hire the people who can do this. Customer Service testing is really effective.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • This is eveything we are trying to get our staff to acknowledge...service is more than being friendly, its finding ways to serve the members.
    Anonymous