The rise of senior-level customer experience managers is a relatively new phenomenon in the business world, but there’s no question the role is here to stay. Just last April, a global survey by Forrester Consulting identified “customer retention/loyalty” and “customer experience” as the top two business priorities for global companies across eight industries. “Grow revenue” came in at No. 3.
Of the industries surveyed by Forrester, financial services firms ranked highest in customer experience maturity. Retail banks and credit unions were among the first to jump on the customer experience bandwagon, but how are these programs structured? And what qualities and skills are needed to do the job?
Here are tips from three credit unions — Vibrant, Redwood, and Northwest — on how to approach the member experience (MX) role and build a successful program.
Tip 1: Promote an internal culture focused on member experience.
CU QUICK FACTS
Redwood Credit Union
HQ: Santa Rosa, CA
Data as of 12.31.18
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 9.3%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 17.8%
For employees to actively enhance member experience, they need to have a voice in the process, says Dave Upham, senior vice president of member experience at Redwood Credit Union ($4.6B, Santa Rosa, CA).
Upham has spent more than 20 years in the credit union industry, previously serving as chief executive officer and president at Atascadero Federal Credit Union prior to its merger with CoastHills Credit Union in 2006. Upham served as executive vice president and chief operations officer at CoastHills until joining Redwood in 2018.
Member experience is a key position at Redwood, and Upham’s team is responsible for ensuring quality service across all channels, including telephone, email, social media, and brick-and-mortar branches. Upham is also responsible for helping to drive member experience strategy and programs, which requires him to collaborate with every area of the credit union that touches members.
Dave Upham, SVP of Member Experience, Redwood Credit Union
“You have to be a people person, somebody who believes in creating relationships and is dedicated to service,” Upham says. “That’s what it’s all about — the total member experience.”
Brett Martinez, CEO of Redwood, says the member experience role dates back to 2010, when the credit union centralized the feedback coming in from its many channels.
“For years, I was coming away from meetings with a list of things that needed to be worked on,” Martinez says. “Eventually, I started to say, ‘Wait a minute, why do you wait for me? The reality was that they knew I would get it fixed.”
Redwood now has a central online repository for MX projects that combines staff suggestions, Net Promoter Score (NPS) input, and member feedback.
“I tell the staff that if you put an idea out there, and everybody agrees with you — and it’s legal — it will get done,” Martinez says.
Tip 2: Align goals from the top down.
CU QUICK FACTS
HQ: Herndon, VA
Data as of 12.31.18
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: -1.8%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 7.3%
For outstanding member experience, the leadership of an organization must ensure priorities align, says Jeff Margeson, senior vice president of member experience at Northwest Federal Credit Union ($3.4B, Herndon, VA). In addition to looking at the cost, resources, and other requirements for new initiatives, leaders must also consider the benefits of reduced friction, member satisfaction, and loyalty.
“In terms of effectiveness, having representation from the member experience teams in the project cycle from conception to completion ensures the voice of the member and the staff is captured in the finished product or solution,” Margeson says.
Margeson began his career in community banking, working in branches and the call center. After an acquisition, he moved to a large commercial bank, overseeing regional audit and branch operations for more than a decade. Five years ago, Margeson joined Northwest as vice president of e-services, which included the contact center, e-lending, and online account opening. He became the senior vice present of member experience approximately 18 months ago.
Jeff Margeson, SVP of Member Experience, Northwest FCU
Member experience at Northwest has historically incorporated branch banking and e-services, but Margeson’s role has evolved to include retail business development — including select employer group, community partner, and private relationship management — and marketing and communications.
“This alignment has created coordinated efforts focused on consistently evaluating and improving the member experience and deepening member relationships,” Margeson says.
According to Margeson, those years of hands-on experience in branches and calls centers prepared him for the role.
“Diversity of experience has proven invaluable in providing a cohesive vision for the teams I support,” he says.
Tip 3: Look for ways to simplify processes.
CU QUICK FACTS
Vibrant Credit Union
HQ: Moline, IL
Data as of 12.31.18
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: -2.6%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 1.3%
Credit unions of all sizes face challenges with siloed organizations that add steps to processes and create friction with members.
“It pains me to hear ‘this is the way we’ve always done it,’” says Steve Ducey, chief experience officer at Vibrant Credit Union ($714.4M, Moline, IL). “I believe when you’ve achieved perfection, you need to re-evaluate. There is always a better way.”
Ducey’s bond with Vibrant goes back to his childhood. His father worked on the factory floor at John Deere, and DHCU (Deere Harvester Credit Union, renamed Vibrant in 2015) has been Ducey’s first and only financial institution. His career has spanned sales, marketing, and consulting across several industries, and the experience executive has helped some of the biggest brands in the world navigate the complexity of digital change.
“By nature, I don’t have an issue sticking my nose in places,” says Ducey, who joined the board at Vibrant seven years ago and moved onto the leadership team two years later. “Not growing up in banking helps, too. I get the luxury of asking questions and looking at solving problems from a different lens.”
Steve Ducey, Chief Experience Officer, Vibrant Credit Union
Ducey is currently responsible for marketing, data and analytics, and branch and call center operations but has also served as senior leader for retail sales, insurance, facilities, human resources, training, and leadership development at the credit union.
“My role as it relates to the experiences of our members is not bound by the functional area I lead,” Ducey says. “It is designed to home in on all communications, physical interactions, and digital interactions and continually ask, ‘Does this provide the best possible member experience?’”
Vibrant has been focusing on simplifying online processes for members. As a result, the credit union has converted nearly 35% of digital interactions into leads. With digital origination tools finally maturing, Ducey plans to focus on enhancing Vibrant’s digital platform with online account origination.
“Imagine what we can do when we have the proper channels and are offering the best experience.” Ducey says.
Tip 4: Deepen the credit union’s knowledge and understanding of the member experience.
Making meaningful improvements in member experience requires understanding the pain points and friction associated with dealing with the credit union.
Over the past two years, Margeson at Northwest teamed with internal partners to journey-map a variety of member touchpoints and processes, such as mobile banking signup, bill pay signup, new accounts, new memberships, and loan applications.
“Journey mapping is from the member’s experience, so we start with: John Smith wakes up in the morning and decides he needs a new car,” Margeson says. “We’ll white board the entire thing. What kind of car does John Smith want? Is he going to a dealer? How will he finance it? How will he choose Northwest Federal Credit Union? Will he go into a branch or online? We go through painful, granular details, but when we do that, we can see gaps and opportunity for outreach, overcome hurdles, and ensure an optimal experience.”
Tip 5: Implement targeted improvements to increase customer loyalty, retention, and satisfaction.
Some organizations make the mistake of going too far too fast with initiatives that frustrate members or impact the rollout of digital services. And every time a member adopts an online service, it cuts back on the number of face-to-face interactions with front-line employees.
To counter the feeling of losing that one-to-one connection, Redwood seized the opportunity to make its digital remote deposit capture experience more memorable. Now when members complete a mobile deposit, a shower of confetti falls across the screen of the mobile device, congratulating the member on a successful transaction.
The credit union received immediate positive response from the members, with some joking that they wished they had another check to deposit so they could see the confetti again.
“We call it a ‘confetti moment,’” Upham says. “Regardless of our role or department, it’s all about the member experience. We always approach our strategy, products, and projects with the member in mind first. It’s got to be a wow experience.”
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