Quick! What's the best way to communicate with your members? Face to face? By phone? Using snail mail? Via email? If your answer is “it depends on the member,” you're probably right. Some members will always prefer to put a face to a voice (or a computer screen). Even in today's high-tech society, not everyone has found a comfort zone with digital communications. But for growing numbers of credit union members everywhere, communication by email is quickly becoming the method of choice.
Online, alive and well
Today, more than a quarter of all online consumers choose to receive email alerts from their financial institutions. So, why is that impressive? After all, the remaining 75 percent of consumers must prefer to receive information by snail mail or lobby kiosk, right? Don't bet on it. Two-thirds of consumers now have access to the Internet. As that number climbs so will consumers' demand for the convenience of product news and account information delivered to their desktops.
There is one caution, however: People provide their email addresses to make it easier to receive wanted information, not to be hounded by junk mail. Think of email as an extension of your member service. Members will be much more open to receiving operational alerts and marketing messages via email if they believe your credit union has their best interest in mind. And with members' needs in mind, it's vital to do your homework when you're in the market for a service provider.
What's riding on your choice? Member satisfaction, operational efficiencies, and the opportunity to sell additional products and services. Look for a service that offers the features and flexibility to help your members feel comfortable - and in control. And, as with any business partner, look for an experienced service provider with the capability to provide an easy-to-use program. Perhaps most importantly, your provider should share your service philosophy.
Right now, changes are occurring in the email alerts marketplace. New, untested entrants are trying to gain a foothold through short-term price incentives, and a few existing vendors are shifting their market strategies to focus more on their profit and less on your service. This makes it doubly important to choose your provider carefully.
Check it out
Email alerts are a part of your member service equation, so consider carefully which features are essential to you - and your members. Here's a checklist of seven key questions to ask when making your vendor decision:
||Does the service provider carry the burden? - Look for a provider with the technology and expertise to handle most of the work rather than one that pushes it off on your staff. Be sure your vendor makes use of active white-list management and other positive deliverability solutions.
||Will the program's details bog down your marketing staff? - A quality service provider has the technology to offer automated marketing processes, including email address management, freeing up your staff for other projects.
||Is the program template-driven? - Your vendor should offer templates to make sending email alerts easy on your employees. Choose a provider that offers a variety of message styles and templates - and ask if the templates can be easily customized with your name and logo.
||Can you get outside help when you need it? - Make sure your service provider is available and has the technical expertise to handle your concerns when they arise. Choose a vendor that knows your industry and the members you serve.
||Is the program permission-based? - Avoid vendors that offer an “opt-out” rather than an “opt-in” feature. By asking permission to email alerts to your members, you become an invited guest, rather than an unwelcome pest.
||Does your vendor offer automated email alert choices? - Your email communications goals are unique to your credit union. Make sure your vendor's software includes flexible fields that allow you to create “tell me when” categories so you can target your members' specific requests.
||Can your members set their own preferences and make changes? - Preference-based emails take permission-driven communications to the next level. Choose a system that allows members to select and manage their own alert choices.
When it comes to interacting with members, many credit unions are finding success using the technology of email. Used effectively, email provides a convenient, inexpensive communication service to benefit your members. And with the right service, you can use members' email addresses to learn more about and target their preferences. Like you, a quality service provider will stay alert to what your members want.
||For a FREE report on how to improve your e-mail marketing titled "Electronic Messaging Tips For E-mail Success" click on the report icon or visit http://www.digitalmailer.com/offerings.html
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Ron Daly is president/CEO of DigitalMailer, Inc., which provides digital communication products such as eStatements and e-LERT, a preference-based email notification system; eCHECK, and eSurvey. Together, DigitalMailer's products assist credit unions in gaining a strategic business advantage over competitors via the Internet and their Web sites. For more information, contact DigitalMailer at (866) 994-4900, or visit www.digitalmailer.com.