Service Culture? Sales Culture? Concierge Culture!

At a time when many credit unions are venturing to make a transition from having a service culture to that of a more sales oriented culture, the task may not only prove challenging and unsustainable, but even futile.


At a time when many credit unions are venturing to make a transition from having a service culture to that of a more sales oriented culture, the task may not only prove challenging and unsustainable, but even futile.

Truth #1: Fewer than one in ten credit union employees feel that they are one of the best salespeople that they know.

Take a moment to reflect back to your own childhood…did you not most enjoy doing those things at which you excelled (math, sports, art, music, etc.)? Okay…maybe it wasn’t just in childhood…but that serves to further validate this point.

Truth #2: The word “sell” has a negative connotation among branch employees primarily because of its perceived focus on force or manipulation for money.

Consider the following definitions:

sell: (verb) [sel] Persuade somebody to accept or buy something
ser’vice: (verb) [súr v?ss] Provide a community or organization with something that it needs.

It would appear to anyone reading those definitions that service would be the more “noble” of the two professions.

Truth #3: Nine of ten branch employees feel they are one of the best providers
of service that they know.

The concept of Credit Union Concierge capitalizes on what those frontline employees believe their strength to be…service, which has people and their needs as its focus. Most view the role of a hotel concierge as a service role. Let’s not forget that not only does the concierge tell you where to get what it is you want and how to get there, they ask you what is important to you before making any recommendation (i.e. before making restaurant recommendations or reservations they ask…formal or casual…type of food… how many people?). Why not apply this concept in the credit union environment? The member asks, “What are your current CD rates?” A “Concierge” might ask…”How long before planning to spend this money? Is there something specific that you have in mind for your savings? Do you know how much you are going to need? Do you have any other resources for achieving this goal?”

Could something have been “sold” to this member before asking these questions? Absolutely…however, the questions are certain to lead to a more appropriate recommendation while also serving to further a relationship between the member, the “Concierge,” and ultimately the credit union. But, would you want to have each of your front line people going into this detail with every member? Probably not…Therefore, how do you achieve the “Credit Union Concierge Culture?”
You need at least one employee in each branch profiling members to ensure that they are getting the most possible value from their credit union. Remember, a good concierge also anticipates the needs of repeat guests, or in the case of the credit union, members with whom your staff has a relationship.
When identified properly, this employee will cause the Concierge Culture to spread like wildfire.

If the goal were simply to ensure that the credit union had the largest possible “share of member wallet,” your instinct may be to look for your most assertive employee. An assertive person would make certain that each member “bought” at least -- (pick a number here) -- products and or services. Great, if you are looking for sales for the sake of sales. But If not looking for the most assertive person, what should you be looking for instead?

Fusion uses a behavioral profiling tool to help identify those employees with the Concierge Profile. The following traits and tendencies are identified: Assertiveness, Sociability, Patience/Persistence and Detail Orientation.

Profile of the Credit Union Concierge

The high level of Sociability identifies this employee as first and foremost, a people person. They build strong relationships and are motivated by helping people and being an integral part of a team. In other words, the member and what’s best for the member comes first. They make referrals to other departments where a member may be better served. They have the ability to be somewhat Assertive, which allows them a level of comfort when asking probing questions and making suggestions. The lower level of Patience/Persistence means that this individual not only embraces but thrives upon new ideas and added responsibility. As you may have assumed, a healthy orientation to Detail is important when you are dealing with people’s money and industry regulations.

Granted, only a few individuals in each branch fit this profile. But, that’s the beauty of the Concierge Profile…Perhaps, just as important as the member relationships they build, this individual has strong internal relationships with the ability to break down silos between departments and motivate coworkers into supporting their efforts…creating the Concierge Culture.

For further information on Fusion Financial Marketing Group, Inc., creating the Concierge Culture or the behavioral profiling tool, please call Donna Gervig at (800)470-4270 or e-mail



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May 31, 2004


  • If you do not ask for the member's business, the banks will!
  • This is an issue we're struggling with in our organization. We've been working on this transition for a few years now. Our employees fit the profile described and are more than happy to help a member and are hungry for ideas about how to do that. The word "sales" stops them dead in their tracks. I like the concept of concierge.
  • We incorporate our Concierge position into our sales and service culture. It's a great place to make that first informed, professional impression.
  • I am with everyone else. We are trying w/difficulty getting to this point. If anyone has any suggestions or training techniques I would appreciate hearing from you.
  • I think the word "Sell" needs to be replaced with "Educate". If the credit union employee believes in the product (understands what it does for the member/credit union), they will be more inclined to educate the member on it (not sell it). In this way the credit union ensures that their employees understand the product(s)and the benefits to the member. The member is educated about each product available to them so they in turn can make an Educated decision on whether it will fit their needs. As the article says, not everyone can sell, but everyone can Educate and provide the necessary service to help the member understand what the product is all about.
  • I must agree with the individual(s) who disagree with this article. Having been a business developer for a community-chartered credit union, I can tell you, if you don't "sell" your products, banks, thrifts, and other credit unions will sell them for you. While education is a tremendous tool in preparing members to "think" about signing up with a product or service, without the mindset of selling, you've really missed the point. Banks, if they really wanted to, would educate every last person on their products or services or how they are far superior than other banks. People are not stupid. I truly believe the consumer or post dot-com bust consumer is more concerned with true value rather than a lesson on how and why their savings work. When I think of "concierge" or the term "service", I feel like driving up to the gas pump and yelling "service". Service, although an excellent method in passive selling, is great, but for other types of business, in my opinion. Those of us within the credit union industry, know well that banks aggressively sell everything from their no frills savings, to all types of checking, even non-profit joint marketing to "sell"(that word again) financial products. I couldn't agree more with the individual who responded to this article by saying without "sales", you foster a no-pressure environment for tellers or those who are in direct contact with members. Bottom line: Credit unions, whether they like to admit it or not, are in the business to make money. "Sell" or your credit union will be sold.
  • I agree with the person that made the comment "if you don't ask for the member's business, the banks will." The fact of the matter is that the banks have a formula that works and for some reason credit unions are in denial and try every which way to avoid it. "Sales" The formula: Set expectations, inspect performance, and reward/accountability. This "Concierge Culture" is just another "sale to credit unions" on an idea that once again avoids the topic of sales. That you can train staff to be a "concierge" -- when we can't even begin a successful sales culture! Seriously, how many people can be trained to be a good concierge? Sure credit union employees say they want to better service members, but without "sales" pressure/reward they enter into a day after day routine comfort zone with no sense of accountability. Say the word "sell" or "sales" and there goes the comfort zone. I feel the lack of success in developing credit union sales/service culture is the lack of accountability. The credit union value is there and I think that is what many CEO's confuse with service. People join credit unions because they get better products. Ironically we are supposed to be service oriented. Somewhere the lines have gotten fuzzy. Banks realized this and up their products. Now the score is all tied!! It is up to credit unions to get more aggresive and really stand up for there existence! The best way to overcome a fear is to face it. Credit Unions need to teach sales!!
  • Great information that makes it easy for employees to understand and hopefully can make the job of "selling" more easily accepted since we really are providing a service!
  • Very interesting slant to "selling" while still providing additional service(s) to members. The previous commentary with the "1" rating misses the point of this article. Concierge culture is still sales, but from a unique viewpoint. The belief is more sales can be made through a sincere discovery of members'needs then filling them.
  • Makes a world of sense. Now to find the right person(s) to fit mold.
  • We know from experience that people who meet a "great" customer service profile can sell in this "Concierge" style. The tool of choice for many credit unions is the "Cuctomer Service Perspective". It just maks sense to hire and manage credit union employees to this new way of thinking.