Henry, based on my own experience I am a firm believer in a service and sales culture. If you develop the culture in the right way, you will see a huge impact on the growth of your credit union. If developed properly the new culture will make your staff more proactive in meeting member needs, and that will draw more business and members to your credit union. You will have more of an impact on members’ lives and more of an impact on your north central Pennsylvania community.
Based on my own experience, here are the things I think you should concentrate on and how to deal with the issues they concern.
A sales culture should really be called a service and sales culture. Exceptional service has to be at the heart of your new culture. A passion for service means we care enough for our members to present a product that is right for each person. For example, an employee should not be promoting a home equity line of credit to an elderly person not in need of one; however, they might suggest laddering CDs might be better than rolling over a single large CD.
Commit to the change. If you are not committed as CEO, a culture change will fail. With commitment you will have a more professional credit union by deepening relationships with members and increasing penetration of your products.
Moving to a service and sales culture is a long-haul exercise. Expect the initial process to take one to three years and even then you are not finished. A service and sales culture is an ongoing proposition.
Conversion is a top-down exercise. Henry, you are not in the trenches but you can show support by asking for success stories and pointing to them as the behavior you want to promote.
The heart of a service and sales culture is the long-term relationship. Too many people think of sales as closing the deal on a financial contract. This is shortsighted. A sale like that is over and done with. You want your people to serve members in such a way that they build lifelong relationships based on mutual trust. Members will come to the credit union because they know it is looking for ways to improve their lives.
Before you commit to a service and sales culture, thoroughly examine your processes and infrastructure. You need the capabilities to absorb higher volume. You don’t want a surge in demand that clogs the pipes. Service will deteriorate and you will counteract the benefits of your culture. Choke points might be in loan processing or new account opening. Don’t be caught flat-footed; you won’t get a second chance.
Consider your management structure in advance. If you think you will have a silo problem at Clyburn FCU, consider bringing in a sales and service consultant to break down barriers. Every department needs to work seamlessly with every other. Decide who, other than you, is going to be in charge. You need to appoint a champion that can lead the charge.
Strive for balance between sales and service. One should not outweigh the other. Sales metrics are relatively easy compared to service metrics, but you can’t overlook the latter. Have some way of measuring service. For example, transactional surveys reveal how members feel about the credit union’s service. However you measure service, keep these measurements in front of staff.
Get the right people in the front line. This can be trickier than you think. When you hire, look for people who want to work with other people. People with retail sales experience are good candidates. Service surveys often show people fixated on details are not people-oriented. In hiring, consider using a personality profile tool to assist in getting detail-oriented people in detail-oriented jobs and getting people-centric people on the front line. Front-line people should be good listeners and adept at asking the right questions, figuring out needs, meeting those needs, and building lifelong relationships. If someone does not seem right where they are, counsel them to go where their passion is; that is where they will have the most impact, even if it is somewhere other than in the credit union.
Sell benefits, not features. Members need and want benefits, not features. The benefit is usually money saved, money earned, peace of mind, or time saved. The front line should be prepared to do the math and show how much a member benefits.
Knowledge is key. Everyone should have a thorough knowledge of the products and services of the credit union. The front line cannot adequately sell products and services they do not understand, and support people cannot deliver what the front line needs if the support people don’t have a working understanding of the products and services. Offer employee manuals and online tools that have short tips on how best to present the products and services. Train and coach employees so they understand what the credit union is offering. Finally, test their knowledge of the products and services.
Training and coaching is ongoing. Sales training cannot be a one-shot event. Reinforce your training and include training updates for products and services. By the same token, the primary reason most service and sales cultures fail is inadequate coaching. Have supervisors praise good performance and coach to correct underperformance. Henry, keep your eyes and ears open. You have to coach the coaches. Set up systematic tracking to make sure the coaches are coaching.
Set specific front-line goals. Everyone should know numbers they are expected to hit. If they are lagging, they should spend some time with a good coach so they can get back on track. Hold everyone accountable, otherwise poor as well as exceptional performers are rewarded, and that promotes poor performance.
Use incentives. I have seen income from gap auto insurance policies double when incentives were offered, and – if set up properly – at no cost to the credit union. Don’t fret about building a perfect incentive system because there probably is none. Put together an incentive system you think will work with your people and then adjust it as you go along. Don’t offer managers the same incentives as front-line staff or they will try to sell rather than coach. Managers can gain from overall goals but don’t put them in the position of competing with the front line.
Incentives are a better use of your money than some other expenses. Some credit unions willingly pay auto dealers $600 for a $20,000 indirect auto loan but shy away from offering $25 to an employee for recapturing a $20,000 auto loan, which will make you more money as well as develop a deeper relationship with your member. Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Good luck, Henry. I think you are going to rev up your credit union.