A Question Of Culture

Whether a credit union's staff and leadership is comfortable going off script to solve member problems is a matter of culture.

 
 

A recent experience at my credit union got me thinking about culture. I wondered how this credit union, or any other one, would answer a tough question like: “Does your culture empower your mission or hinder it?

First, some background. My credit union charged me for an electric bill that was not mine. It was clear to me someone had simply entered a wrong digit somewhere. Not a big deal. Easily fixed. But the member service representative insisted this was a security breach and that I had to close my share draft account and get a new one. That's quite a disruption.

 

 

This credit union is my family’s primary financial institution. We have our car and home loans there. We direct deposit our paychecks into that share draft account. We use direct debit and online bill pay for all our bills. You get the picture.

Besides being a pain for the member to deal with, closing and opening an account is more work and expense for the credit union. Plus, it's an invitation for the accountholder to move their business elsewhere. I wasn’t tempted to do so, but how many people would be? I mean, if you’re going through the hassle and are already considering a move, what better time?

Empowerment creates a culture that’s more likely to sustain member satisfaction and deep, long-term relationships.

I can tell when someone’s reading from a script. Other people can, too, even if they don’t have my experience managing a credit union contact center. And that's what the MSR who took my call was doing. He clearly did not feel comfortable leaving the script to really look at what was going on. I pushed, and he finally agreed to transfer me to the ACH department manager. After a quick look, she saw the problem, yep — it was a digit slip on the ACH request. Problem solved.

To me, this is an issue of culture. It’s hard to fault a credit union for being concerned about security; we all know fraud is a real concern. But a culture that empowers — expects, even — employees to think off-script will improve the member experience and possibly even help prevent fraud along the way. After all, won't employees who aren’t looking to check boxes but rather are fully leaning in to the situation see more? Employee empowerment creates a culture that’s more likely to sustain member satisfaction and deep, long-term relationships.

Company culture is said to be the personality of an organization. But that’s just the surface. Behind this is a foundation of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs all aligned to help an organization achieve its mission.

What’s The Big Idea?

Asking tough questions requires honest assessment, introspection, and consultation. It’s an arduous process, but tough questions demand nothing less. Are you asking tough questions? Callahan’s Strategy Lab helps credit unions think differently about how to frame challenges and develop answers. Learn more today.

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Culture flows from the top down, but it flourishes from the bottom up. If the entire team is not in lockstep, then there might be disconnects that will prevent the credit union from reaching its desired results. Individual employees must understand that they are empowered, and expected, to help the credit union achieve its overarching mission. They can’t do that if they are confined to checking boxes on a script. No one flourishes that way.

Empowerment doesn’t have to be scary. Not for the C-suite. Not for the front line.

Someone who was empowered to go off script quickly resolved my payment situation. But the MSR only transferred my call at my request. How can the credit union make sure that happens without the caller's insistence?

Zappos is a customer service legend. Sure, the online retail giant doesn’t have to satisfy federal or state regulators when it takes back a pair of shoes, but it is celebrated for its internal culture of individual empowerment.

Credit unions operate in a highly regulated business, which makes the question of how to empower employees a bit tougher. But it sure seems that people are more loyal to a culture than they are to a strategy. The former empowers the success of the latter.

So, does your credit union’s culture empower employees to truly serve members? If not, how can you improve your culture to achieve better member service.

Answering tough questions requires honest assessment, introspection, and consultation. It’s an arduous process, but tough questions demand nothing less. Callahan’s Strategy Lab helps credit unions think differently about how to frame challenges and develop answers. Read now.

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Feb. 20, 2018


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