When Orange County’s Credit Union ($1.2 billion, Santa Ana, California) started mapping the member experience last year, its motivation was simple. It knew delivering good member experiences isn’t good enough in today’s increasingly competitive environment.
According to Forrester’s 2014 annual customer experience index (CXi), even notoriously low-scoring service providers are improving significantly.
“The industry-average CXi scores for the four industries that have historically scored lowest — health insurance, ISPs, TV service providers, and wireless carriers — shot up from 2013 levels,” Forrester analyst Megan Burns writes in a blog posted early last year. “A big part of it is the slow but steady efforts of individual brands in these industries to find and fix bad customer experiences.”
Improvements in industries that traditionally have poor customer service apply upward pressure on other industries to step up their game as well.
CU QUICK FACTS
orange county's Credit Union
data as of 12.31.14
HQ: Santa Ana, CA
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 8.84%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 17.61%
“Service is getting stronger across industries, making it harder to differentiate yourself based on service,” says Lynda Savoit, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Orange County’s Credit Union. “Couple that with the convenience and personalization technology provides and it is easy to see that focused efforts on member experience are critical.”
The credit union encourages its entire staff to view interactions from the member’s perspective and act on daily opportunities to create extraordinary experiences. And as part of Orange County’s Net Promoter program in partnership with Member Loyalty Group, staff members receive real-time feedback so they can quickly address issues.
“This member feedback allows us to see the pain points and fix recurring issues,” Savoit says.
Mapping The Member Experience
In addition to gathering and acting on member feedback, the credit union recently asked branch and call center managers to journey map a specific pain point to better understand what a member experiences in that situation.
WHAT IS JOURNEY MAPPING?
According to the Harvard Business Review
, “A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination.”
By charting the steps from a member’s perspective instead of the organization’s, managers were able to see more clearly opportunities for improvement.
“We worked in small groups with two to three managers focusing on a specific problem scenario,” says Azul Sanchez, branch manager at the credit union’s Long Beach location. “Using sticky pads, highlighters, and colored markers, we were able to draw out each step as we discussed the experience. We had fun with the mapping experience and even included what the member would have been thinking at each touch point.”
Sanchez and her group mapped the experience of a member whose debit card was declined after business hours at a gas station because of a card processor’s system error. Sanchez, who had a similar experience when a card processing system went offline, easily related to her team’s scenario.
“As credit union employees, we have ‘the curse of knowledge’ because we understand how the systems work,” Sanchez says. “But this exercise helped us remember the average member would not know why their card was declined. That can be extremely frustrating.”
Each group also identified specific points where the credit union could improve and discussed how staff members could help save member relationships before it’s too late.
“Simple things like the way a manager apologizes and explains the situation without blaming an outside party can make all the difference to a member,” Sanchez says.
Shopping With Purpose
Orange County’s also encourages individual staff members to evaluate their experiences with businesses in the area through the lens of customer service. To this end, the credit union provided $50 gift cards to branch staff that shared a mystery shopping experience with the credit union.
“Whether the experience was good, bad or indifferent, we want to learn from the competition,” Savoit says. “Many of the experiences shared so far were eye opening and some re-affirmed what we are already doing at the credit union to make members feel welcome.”
Employees of the Long Beach Branch have taken several cues from other service businesses in the area. The staff regularly mystery shops other businesses including local banks, restaurants, and other credit unions. The experiences serve as important reminders for the staff and can spark new ideas.
“Whether the experience was good, bad or indifferent, we want to learn from the competition.”
For example, during a lunch outing to Chik-fil-A, Sanchez and one of her associates received notable service.
“The servers went out of their way to create a great experience for us by bringing the food to our table, checking on us throughout the meal, and offering to refill our drinks,” Sanchez says. “On the flip side, a trip to a national bank left us feeling frustrated after waiting in line for 15-20 minutes while a lobby person walked by us repeatedly without opening an additional teller window.”
The fast food and bank visits prompted the credit union branch to make a simple but pleasing addition — it now offers complimentary bottles of water with the credit union’s logo to members visiting the Long Beach branch.
“We can’t always control the line, especially during peak periods, but we can make the members’ experience a little more comfortable,” Sanchez says. “That’s definitely something we took away from our Chik-fil-A experience and the members really appreciate it.”
Mystery shopping has also underscored the importance of asking questions. When Sanchez visited a branch to close an account at a competing bank — one of several where she keeps small accounts — the teller wouldn’t take “close” for an answer.
“Instead of simply closing the account, the teller asked me why and went on to explain how I could avoid the fees that were moving me to close my account,” Sanchez says. “I didn’t end up closing my account that day because of this employee, and it was a great reminder for my own branch to ask the right questions and take time to truly understand the member’s needs. It might just end up saving the relationship.”
After all, aren’t member relationships what credit unions are all about? Orange County’s pledges to “put people first,” and having the entire organization aligned around putting members first is already improving the service experience. At year-end 2014, its year-over-growth in average member relationship was 7.49% compared to 2.62% for credit unions with $1 billion or more in assets and 5.34% for California credit unions.
“Journey mapping on its own won’t do anything,” Savoit says. “But when it’s part of a larger customer experience program it can help you uncover issues and move from being just good to truly great.”