Want To Grow? Try an Old Fashioned Recipe: Better Service.

It might be difficult to compete on products and marketing with other financial institutions in the field. But good service never goes out of style.


All credit unions today are pushing for growth. Many are trying to get bigger and better, while others are simply looking to survive.  To meet this need, industry executives look for all sorts of new angles: new products, better marketing, enhanced communication, more sales capability, etc. Having said this, are you overlooking the one area in which you can really excel?

The Recipe

If you thought about building your organization in terms of a recipe, you might come up with a set of ingredients and cooking instructions like this:

    Mix 1 part PRODUCT with 1 part SERVICE in proper sized facility,
    Add MARKETING for flavor,
    Add SALES to reach proper consistency, and
    Raise TEMPERATURE until the whole thing is smoking!

Most would agree these are the elemental ingredients in what makes up just about any business.  Sure, there is a lot of nuance and shades-of-gray left out of the equation, but these are the building blocks.

Much of what is discussed in today’s credit union industry news relates to new product opportunities, whiz-bang marketing approaches, and building a world-class sales culture.  Not many people seem to be talking about providing better service.  Why?  Probably because it is not as sexy as that other stuff, and because you already assume you provide excellent service.  For those who feel this way, I have a question: Are you growing as fast as you want to?

Think about it.  When you look at the list of ingredients, with which ones can you really differentiate your product? 

PRODUCT:  You need to be flexible, because all members seem to want something that specifically fits their need rather than your product line.  But is there really that much new under the sun here?  And if there were a new product offering, how long would it be before that bank across the street is offering the same thing?  Little or no differentiation opportunity here – your goal should be to be competitive and flexible.

MARKETING:  It’s nice to have a professional, catchy image.  Something that is memorable and makes people think about you when they are in the market to buy.  On the flip side – can you really “out-market” and “out-branch” Citi, Chase, or B of A?  Your goal in marketing should entail being good communicators with a professional image.

SALES:   Maybe you can become good sellers.  You can certainly hire for sales talent in your team, and you can provide training for the rest of the organization.  Both are good long-term strategies.  But can you wait until the results kick in?

SERVICE:  Believe it or not, in today’s world you can still differentiate with service.  It may be “old fashioned,” but by consistently helping members with the issues that arise during their relationship with you, a level of trust and loyalty is either being created or diminished.  If you do a good job you create loyalty – which leads to “top-of-mind” awareness, openness to your suggestions, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll even tell others about you.

Creating Service-driven Member Loyalty

To increase member loyalty through service also takes time, but it’s something you can start on today!  It involves setting up an environment where everyone knows you want to “do the right thing” for the member. Your employees are also empowered to make decisions; and they have the right tools to do the job.

Most credit unions today are already doing the first two; they are truly interested in helping members, and staff is trusted to do the right thing.  The area of opportunity is whether your team has the right tools to do the job in an easy manner.

The idea is to share organizational knowledge about your relationship with the member – and I’m not just talking about the accounts and services they have with you – but more importantly, the “soft” interactions that come up in a relationship.  Some examples?  A question about an unusual charge on a credit card, a problem with a bill pay item, wanting to send a wire transfer, or even just a simple question about one of their accounts.

A good way to start is with basic contact management tools with a platform that will make it easy for anyone on your team to “jot down” a few notes that can be instantly shared with everyone else on the staff.  That way, if the member ends up talking with another employee, they don’t have to start all over with the explanation.

Moving up the sophistication ladder, how about implementing a service request system – a tool to capture, track, and resolve member requests?  Make sure that you can effectively capture the right information when you are talking with the member and then get it automatically routed to the right people in the organization to resolve the request.  Maybe even sprinkle in some work management tools like escalation to help you keep track of which requests are getting “old” and need some priority attention.

Further down the line are data integration tools.  Does your team routinely visit three or four different systems to view member data and field requests?  What if your member service platform could pull all that information together so that it is right at the fingertips of your staff?

fiVISION and other companies offer several tools that enable superb service capabilities at credit unions.  Our memberWORKS platform was built specifically to address the service ideas mentioned here.  Properly used, your credit union will become quicker, more efficient, and more knowledgeable about the relationships you have with your members.  Believe me – your members will notice that things don’t “drop through the cracks” and that your organization is very responsive.  The result?  They’ll probably think of you next time they need a loan … and maybe they’ll even tell their friends about you.  Now that’s the way to grow your organization!

Better yet, contact me (317.612.3350 or mwinter@fivision.com) and I’ll put you in touch with one of our clients and let them tell you about their results.



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 28, 2007


  • I''m putting together a strategic plan for the next 5 years which discusses growing our membership base. Great article to remind all management, board and personnel of getting back to basics!
    Mary Lou
  • This article was a reminder of how important member service really is. I have shared this article with my office employees and all of our branch managers. The best marketing tool is a happy member.
  • This article give a good hints to pass it on to the managers. We do have a few new members and they need to learn about all these tips so we can have an excellent service. Thank you
  • good article. Also necessary to be reminded on the fact that member service is key.