Unexpectedly Delightful Experiences In Uncertain Times

Community Choice Credit Union’s approach to financial services offers a lighter tone in serious times.

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • Community Choice Credit Union offers a lighter approach to financial services, one valued by staff in a time of uncertainty.
  • Since the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted operations, credit union leaders have worked to maintain engagement, energy, and positivity among employees.

CU QUICK FACTS

Community Choice Credit Union
Data as of 12.31.19

HQ: Johnston, IA
ASSETS: $550.2M
MEMBERS: 48,533
BRANCHES: 7
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 8.2%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 5.8%
ROA: 1.87%

Community Choice Credit Union ($550.2M, Johnston, IA) has made “unexpectedly delightful experiences” part of its mission in serving members, communities, and staff. That’s notable for a financial institution. It’s even more notable the credit union has taken the charge more seriously than ever before.

“In today’s climate, what can we do to show our team and community that we truly give a sh*t?” asks Josh Cook, CEO of Community Choice.

In the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic has changed how members interact with the institution and how employees work with members, Community Choice has doubled down on security and safety without losing sight of the humor and positivity that make the credit union different from other financial institutions.

Unexpectedly Different

During the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cook and his team looked for ways to keep employees feeling positive and mentally strong.

One of the first things the credit union did was change the purpose of its business development staff, Cook says. Without community or in-person events to manage, the otherwise active group started maintaining social connectivity among staff. 

“They’re essentially our Culture Club,” Cook says. 

The group coordinates virtual activities such as happy hours, karaoke, and even bingo — digital experiences that can go a long way in helping to maintain social connections. In fact, Cook notes just how powerful another digital tool — the organization’s intranet — has been in maintaining a sense of normalcy. Community Choice provides one teller $100 each week to shop locally and show the credit union, via the intranet, where they shopped. 

“It’s important to remain calm, cool, and collected in these moments, but we also don’t want to take ourselves too seriously,” Cook says. 

In addition to providing virtual support, the new culture club also provides boots-on-the-ground coordination, like when it arranged for the distribution of fleece to team members who wanted to sew blankets. The credit union ultimately donated those blankets to help those in temporary housing.

And, to encourage engagement among members and staff, the club created postcards that double as coloring kits. Employees color part of the picture and mail it on to members. Members, in turn, can color another part and send the postcard to a friend or family member.

Community_Choice_Web_Slider

To spread good vibes, the credit union created cards of encouragement that doubled as opportunities to color. To print your own, click the above image.

The lighter tone the credit union strives to achieve is apparent in its marketing and community work, whether it's a “Consolidate your Bills” HELOC campaign or an employee dressing up as Sheriff Savings to process refinance requests.

“You don’t need to be a buttoned-up, overly formal financial institution to be strong and to meet a member’s needs,” Cook says.

As Seen On Social

Several weeks ago, Cook decided he wanted to thank his employees for helping members during these uncertain times. His wife suggested he send handwritten thank you notes. Looking at the poster board his daughter had been using for school and creative projects, Cook decided to combine the two. 

The result? A personal way to thank employees while adhering to social distancing measures.

Cook wrote, in large letters, messages of appreciation for staff, including “You are an important part of #OneTeam” and “Thank you for your dedication to unbanking.” He drove to the credit union’s different locations and surprised staff by holding up the signs in front of the branch and in the drive-thru lines.

“I owe my daughter at least four sheets of poster board,” he says. “But we got our Love Actually moment.”

CEO Josh Cook holds up signs of appreciation for Community Choice employees serving members during the coronavirus pandemic.

For Cook, the moment was valuable because it was meaningful as well as unexpected. He conveyed real feelings of empathy that many people share, but he expressed them in a way that few would. 

“There have been thousands of emails and posts written in the past few weeks thanking employees and reassuring people that we are going to get through this together,” Cook says. “For the most part, you could probably replace the name of one organization with another and send the same press release. That’s not enough.”

In good times, Community Choice prides itself on the delightful and unexpected. That’s what members and employees have come to expect from the credit union, so, in uncertain times, why would it be anything less?

“Being who we are is refreshing and calming to staff,” Cook says. “It keeps them going and helps them have a little fun in this difficult time. It’s important we continue to be who we are.”

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