One of the hallmarks that has traditionally differentiated credit
unions from banks has been a focus on -and devotion to- true customer
service. Credit unions have prided themselves on knowing their members,
and members have responded with loyalty and strong emotional ties.
Changing fields of membership, more technology-savvy members,
and a job market that is forcing people to relocate more often are
all making it more difficult for many credit unions to maintain
the traditional face-to-face customer recognition. Today, customer
service and relationship management require different kinds of tools,
many of them technology-based.
The bad news is that all types of financial institutions are using
these tools, so the competitive advantage is diminished. The good
news is that when it comes to customer service and real relationship
management, credit unions are still ahead of the curve in terms
of focus, culture, and commitment.
You're Only as Good as the People You Rely On
As credit unions turn to technology to enhance their ability to
serve members, many are finding that just having the most current
bells and whistles just isn't enough. The ability to respond to
members' needs may now be partly controlled by a third party who
provides the functionality of the service being offered, and too
often this third party doesn't meet the credit union's high standards
for customer service and support.
A good example of this is collateral protection insurance. Credit
unions need a way to protect their auto loan portfolios, and CPI
is increasingly the method of choice because of its fairness to
members and because it removes the burden of collateral loss risk
from the credit union. However CPI, also known as ''force placed''
insurance, can also be a customer service headache if the customer
service aspect is less than stellar. Good programs focus on making
sure that members with proper insurance don't accidentally get swept
into the net, and rectifying the problem immediately if an unnecessary
notice is sent.
The Internet has allowed many CPI providers to give their credit
union customers access to member records on-line. While there can
be a great deal of variation by provider in the frequency with which
these records are updated, credit union staff can at least check
the status of a member's account, according to the CPI provider's
records, and pass along some answers to their members.
One CPI provider, State National Companies (SNC), has taken this
a step further. By emulating credit unions' commitment to knowing
the people they serve and providing what they need, SNC has been
able to develop an approach that combines the latest technology
with personalized service to significantly enhance the credit union's
ability to service its members.
A Team Approach Gets Your Members the Service They Deserve
In 2001, State National implemented a team approach to customer
service for its credit union clients. The goal was to make it even
easier for credit unions to take care of their members. While client
surveys and comments already showed a high level of customer satisfaction
before the change, recent surveys, taken since the introduction
of this team approach, show a measurable improvement in key areas
like proactive problem solving, follow up, and understanding the
credit union's business. This has made SNC's already loyal customers
even more satisfied.
What makes the difference? State National was already leading
the field with services like customized notices, real-time updates
of customer files, 24/7 customer access to records, and specialists
who can provide answers. They also lead the industry in issuing
refunds when proof of acceptable insurance is provided. With technology
becoming a greater part of the mix, SNC's specialists listened closely
to their credit union customers to find out what else they could
do to help. The result was the team approach.
SNC decided to leverage its unique position as the agent, tracker,
underwriter, and final authority on claims to give their clients
even better service. They combined account, data-entry and insurance
verification reps into service teams committed to meeting specific
client needs. The teams define goals, outline responsibilities,
encourage group support and instill accountability to one another.
With each person specializing in a specific task, team members can
focus on their jobs and more efficiently handle the workload, so
each credit union gets an even faster response to questions and
more personalized help in making their specific program even better.
According to Nedra Orf, Vice President, Lending at Electro Savings
Credit Union ''State National's people are wonderful. In the
real world things will never go exactly as promised, but with State
National I know I can just pick up the phone when a problem comes
up and they will take immediate action. I feel like we've formed
a great relationship.''
SNC service reps have more time for individualized service, and
clients have discovered the benefits of having a group of specialists
dedicated to their account. They know, when questions arise, there's
always someone available to supply accurate and timely answers.
They trust their team to give them the help they need when they
need it, so they can give their members the service they expect.
A team member familiar with the client's way of doing business
handles every call or e-mail request. Backed by StarTrak®, SNC's
real-time tracking system, reps instantly retrieve essential data
to answer questions with speed and accuracy. Technology is relegated
to its appropriate role in the CRM picture. For example, for quick
insurance verification anytime, customers can use SNC's interactive
voice response system or Client Tools on the Internet.
For more than three decades, State National Companies has delivered
exceptional technology-based insurance solutions to credit unions
nationwide, without losing their focus on their customers as individuals
with distinct, specific needs. SNC's programs are customized to
build on each credit union's business philosophy and help them maintain
positive relationships with their members.
For more information on State National Companies' CPI services, please
call 1-888-525-5977 or visit the web site at www.statenational.com/lender_services/