Good Customer Relationship Management Takes More Than Technology

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.


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


This sponsored content article is provided to the credit union community for shared insights and knowledge from a recognized solutions provider in the industry. Please note that the views and opinions offered here do not reflect those of Callahan & Associates, and Callahan does not endorse vendors or the solutions they offer.

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May 12, 2003



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