Closing Communication Distance Generates Growth

Credit unions can improve your virtual communication strategy in these four key areas.




Every credit union is trying to make more loans, achieve growth in new, profitable members and activate unengaged members. Some credit unions are trying to accomplish that by moving their digital communication and feedback loops closer to the member experience and finding success with the new tactic.

At a recent conference, marketers discussed the re-emergence of email and online surveys as a way to boost brand and profit growth. They weren’t just talking about email blasts or generic satisfaction surveys. They were referring to a new trend of sending highly targeted emails tied to known information about the recipient and building emails and surveys into the selling and servicing process. These near real-time communications speed up the information flow, automate manual steps, promote interaction and improve service levels. Below are four areas where credit unions are closing the communication distance with members and growing as a result.

The Ones That Got Away

You consistently hear that credit unions are tracking the number of loans made and the dollar amounts funded. You also hear that some credit unions regularly send a survey to members holding their loans and collect information member satisfaction with their process. You rarely hear about lenders surveying the ones that got away, which are potential borrowers that declined your offer. You approve the loan, make an offer and the member turns you down flat. Is it better to know why you didn't make the cut or not to know? For credit unions that want to know, a combination of email and surveys collects the details for them.

"We absolutely want to know," says Erin Krause, vice president of lending at Northwest Federal Credit Union ($2B, Herndon, VA). "The Approved – Customer Declined survey and email immediately reaches out to 'the ones that got away' to find out why our borrower turned our offer down. The valuable information collected offers our lending team the opportunity to save the relationship, as well as improve our lending process. Members are very willing to tell us about the better deal they got elsewhere or how we fell short of their expectations.”

Happy And Unhappy Borrowers

You would think that a member that got the loan from your credit union would always be happy, right? Not necessarily. In this new world of social "likes" and "dislikes" credit unions that use surveys and ask "How did we do?" within 24 hours of the transaction are learning some interesting things about their programs and processes. Traditional surveys sent a month or two after funding seem to experience a cooling off period where the member forgets the experience or just doesn't care to respond. Surveys sent closer to the transaction are finding many more unhappy borrowers willing to share their thoughts.

Next-day surveys collect feedback and instantly email the lending department when low scores are received on certain questions. For example, one credit union's lending department received an email on their auto loan survey where a recent borrower gave their auto loan experience a low score of two. In the comment section the borrower said, "I believe the issues and aggravation I experienced could have been avoided if there was a clear-cut set of instructions/steps for each representative (six that I spoke with) and maybe me to follow."

That credit union is now constantly monitoring the feedback and looking for common threads in the borrower responses. They are revising processing and re-training employees to fit with the credit union's relationship strategy when they hear the same comments repeatedly.

Click here to see some actual communication examples from the program.

Profitable New Members

On-boarding, which is building emails and surveys into the selling and servicing process for new members, works exceptionally well. Email addresses of new members can be dropped into a pre-built communication series that introduces the financial benefits of being a member of the credit union.

These automatic emails raise product awareness and deepen the new relationship through customer education and online fulfillment. Email templates and surveys introduce two or three services in each campaign to raise product awareness. Typical onboarding campaigns consist of four to six emails over the course of the first few months until traditional marketing can take over. Horizons North Credit Union introduces its new members through of five emails:

Email #1: Congratulations on becoming an owner of HNFCU

Email #2: We're more than just loans. We have great products, too!

Email #3: HNCU & CU Service Centers: Access to over 4,200 Branches Nationwide

Email #4: You've got us in the palm of your hand!

Email #5: You're only a keyboard away from all the free banking services you need 24/7

NARFE Premier Federal Credit Union used an onboarding email program to increase deposits and loans and trim their budget by 40%. You can read their onboarding email case study on our blog here.

Reactivate Unengaged Members

Reactivation and growth from unengaged members seems to be one of the hottest topics in marketing circles. One of the biggest debates: Whose fault is it that most credit unions have a significant number of unengaged members – The member's or the credit union's?

I recently found out that a colleague had gotten his last car loan indirectly from a credit union through his car dealer because it offered the lowest rate. He took the credit union up on the offer and put $5 in an account to get the loan. After the loan was paid off he became the typical "unengaged" member. When I asked him why he didn't do more with the credit union he replied, "I heard from the credit union once or twice over the course of the four years when they sent me a paper newsletter. As far as I'm concerned, it's their job to let me know what products and services they could offer and they didn't do a very good job."

Don't assume members know your product set as well as you do. An unengaged member may not know about all the products and services available to them. The same onboarding email engines and surveys used to educate new members are being turned towards unengaged members to learn more and to introduce them to the benefits provided by the credit union.

Click here to see some actual onboarding examples from the program.

Connect, Communicate, Grow

The challenge of keeping in touch with members that use technology to transact business is daunting. You can create your own success story through that email address that comes with every application or account opening. That valuable contact point can provide you with virtual up-selling opportunities and eliminate manual follow-ups. Use it to automatically stay in front of members at predetermined intervals for pennies per email. Sophisticated email engines like DigitalMailer's Automatic Relationship Builder (ARB) are using that email address to help deepen member relationships online. The ARB benefits:

  • Cuts out traditional direct marketing production and postage costs
  • Provides consistent, managed contact that strengthens bonds and grows business
  • Tailors images and content to targeted groups
  • Tracks member interaction to identify areas of interest for targeted, timely follow-ups.

Stop Wasting Time And Money

Why spend money on direct mail paper and postage when the same thing can be accomplished in email? Visit our website at for more information or click the Icon to register for our free "Do You Want Fries with That?" webinar that shares case studies of how credit unions are using digital communication to grow their business.

Ron Daly is President/CEO of DigitalMailer, Inc. which helps financial institutions and businesses open their biggest branch – the virtual branch. Using its expertise and today's technology, DigitalMailer helps organizations connect with customers in the online channel they prefer, driving consistent, managed messages that are optimized for communication, convenience, efficiency and promotion of product growth. To learn more, visit or call (866) 994-4900.