In commoditized markets such as the financial services industry, consumer experience is a critical differentiating factor. Credit unions are proving just how adept they are at providing a remarkable experience for members. In a 2010 Forrester Research survey, more than 4,500 Americans evaluated their consumer experience in the past 90 days. Evaluations were based on three ratings: Meeting Needs, Being Easy To Work With, and Enjoyability. The survey questions were:
Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how effective were they at meeting your needs? ("Meeting Needs" rating)
Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how easy was it to work with these firms? ("Being Easy To Work With" rating)
Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how enjoyable were the interactions? ("Enjoyability" rating)
Consumers evaluated 133 different institutions in 14 industries (see which industries at the end of this article). Credit unions tied for seventh place across all industries, and with a consumer experience rating of 85%, they came in first in the "banks" category. Banking institutions as an industry came in seventh with an average customer experience rating of 66%.
Members are reporting a great experience at their credit unions, but how does the industry capitalize on these sentiments? To identify "next step" actions, look at the institution that tops the Customer Experience Survey: Barnes & Noble.
Barnes and Noble was an early adopter of " third place," an idea that consumers consider retail locations viable alternatives to form communities beyond the first and second (home and work, respectively) places in their lives. Other third place originators, such as Borders (#18), also find themselves at the top of the list.
The Takeaway for Credit Unions: Some credit unions have already begun to offer space for community events, which demonstrates the credit union difference to potential members. BMI Federal Credit Union ($346M, Dublin, OH) allows community organizations to use a member meeting room at its headquarters that offers seating for 125, audio-visual equipment, a kitchenette, and separate parking. If the organization is a SEG, the room is free-of-charge. If not, the organization pays a small fee to cover the costs of maintenance and cleaning. What better way to differentiate yourself and pull potential SEG members into the fold than by bringing them directly to your headquarters?
Barnes & Noble also made strides in what could be dubbed the "fourth place," the Internet. In late 2008, the retailer launched " My B&N," an online service with capabilities that draws on traditional social media attributes. Users set up profile pages that highlight literature, music, and video preferences. From there, users can create wish lists to share with friends and family as well as enjoy enhanced consumer rating features. The goal is to add a "sticky" element to the bookstore's online channel, encouraging users to spend more time on the site, much like the browsing that occurs in a physical store.
The Takeaway for Credit Unions: Launching a "My B&N" aspect of your site is unlikely to bring the return on investment you want from your marketing and technology expenses. However, the continual focus on the online channel by top consumer experience organizations shows how important the online channel is (No. 2 Marriott also launched a site re-design in late 2009). Be cognizant of the aforementioned sticky factor. The war on wallet-share is taking place online as more institutions bring account aggregating PFM sites such as Mint and Geezeo in house, complementing online features such as bill pay and account balance updates.
How does your website reflect your consumer experience? Does it encourage members who are already reporting an excellent experience with your credit union to inform their communities about their loyalty? If not, how might it?