Crafting a message for a community credit union is not an easy task. The message has to resonate with a broad audience yet be personalized enough to captivate individual listeners. For 30 years, Kip Karstedt has been helping Wisconsin-based Community First Credit Union reach its audience through radio commercials, musical parodies, and member testimonials.
“I love the testimonials,” says Karstedt, president of Illinois-based Burton Karstedt Advertising. “We’ve recorded thousands of testimonials over the years probably. It’s great to let people speak in their own words — and yet they’re saying the same thing. They’re just saying it in a new way.”
In August, when Community First was manning the volunteer booth for Ultimate Makeover: Home Edition, Karstedt was in Rock Garden Studio recording testimonials. The credit union was focusing on its member service and was asking members to submit stories illustrating the institution’s “WOW” service. For two days, Karstedt filmed and interviewed dozens of Community First members. One family was particularly grateful for the credit union’s motto “We’ll find a way.” When the couple had an opportunity to adopt a child and realize their dreams of parenthood, Community First was the only institution that worked with the couple to make it happen.
“We try to make every member feel valued when they do business with us,” says Amanda Secor, chief marketing officer for Community First. “It’s certainly a challenge for us and I think for many credit unions.”
To that end, training plays a major role in employee development.
“Providing great service — or as we like to call it ‘WOW’ service — is important,” says Minh McKenzie, vice president of sales and service. “It’s really the signature of Community First. That’s what we’re known for and I believe that’s our competitive advantage.”
A little more than two a years ago, the credit union created a member loyalty training program consisting of a series of sales, service, and leadership classes. The credit union makes the program available to all employees, starting with service training, “because that is the foundation of our credit union,” says McKenzie, and then focusing on sales, “not so much pushing a product to the member but really understanding their needs before providing a solution.”
The training gives employees the skill set to do things, such as handle an angry member, the correct way. For product sales, training includes asking open-ended questions to identify needs, then referring to a quote sheet to see the different options that might be available. Training also reinforces why it is important to treat one another inside the credit union with respect and dignity. “The way we treat one another here is a direct reflection of the way we’re going to treat our members,” McKenzie says.
All of this helps the credit union maintain its integral standing as a community partner.
“Coming from the banking side, I didn’t know much about the credit union world,” McKenzie says. “But now I understand what the philosophy is behind ‘People helping people.’ I believe Community First is more than just a financial institution. We are the fabric of this community.”