Find a Need and Fill It
Posted by David England, Senior Research Analyst, Cornerstone Credit Union League on 6/21/2017

I was observing focus groups the other night, taking notes and trying to monitor the body language. In the course of conversation, which was about financial institutions, one of the participants sighed, raised her head and said, “Please, just make my life simpler – not more difficult.” As all of the other participants laughed and agreed, I said to myself, “Isn’t that the truth!” It turns out that there are several requests that are packed into that plea.  Here are a few:

  • Do not over complicate things (e.g., loan applications, overdraft/debits/credits rules).
  • Provide outstanding access (e.g., excellent online/mobile apps that are easy/intuitive/powerful, long operating hours, many locations, many ATM locations).
  • Be trustworthy, efficient, and put my needs over your needs.

That’s a “need.”  Can it be met?  Should it be met?  Some have said and continue to say that this list above includes actions that are great for Members, but too costly for credit unions to consider. 

Leaders will make this happen. Our business is already disrupted by the growing use of technology – from smartphones and wearables to beacons, et al.  Even more stagnating is the continuing mindset that the objective of delivering a positive customer experience (CX) will take the back seat to other priorities, which will not grow a credit union or its relationship with its Members.  Rather, it will likely only reinforce “transactional” relationships.

A recent report on improving the customer experience in banking found that:

  • About one-in-three financial institutions (FI) have a formal Customer Experience (CX) plan.
  • The importance of improving the CX is less in smaller FIs.
  • The CX objectives at most FIs focus on internal benefits and not customer benefits.
  • Research indicates that the CX drives satisfaction, while FIs focus too much on products and branch events.
  • Investment in CX is increasing in most FIs.
  • Most FIs have earned only modest improvements of their CX efforts.

I want to focus on the fourth bullet (just above) for a moment. Research is determining that a good customer experience IS channel sensitive. There is more!

Members place a higher importance on digital member experiences than physical or call center channels.

This conclusion applies to all credit union Members, but it is particularly of interest as it relates to Millennials (age 18 to 34).  Millennials’ dislike of banks is well documented.  Other research informs us that credit unions are excellent alternatives to banks for Millennials.  The problem is that Millennials do not know about credit unions. According to CUNA research, about seven in 10 Millennials say they have little or no knowledge of credit unions.  

One powerful conclusion from this research is that credit unions need to build a winning digital experience and use it as a competitive advantage and differentiator.

One of the benefits of winning and keeping the Millennials’ business is a brighter financial future.  Building a loyal Membership experience within this group is important because of its size.  Over 75 million strong, Millennials overtook the Baby Boomers a couple of years ago.

More CUNA research tells us that highly loyal Members are more frequent users of checking, online/mobile banking, and financial education and counseling.  Unfortunately, recent trends indicate that loyalty might be less of a factor when Members look to borrow.  This trend is likely due to Members’ attempts to reduce their debt to build savings and increasing competition from traditional and non-traditional sources.

Building the best customer experience will not only secure your wallet share of checking, savings, loans, and online/mobile/remote accounts, but it will increase your business as others hear about you (e.g., Millennials who will rave about you on social media).  Be the best at meeting these needs and watch your credit union flourish.

Categories: Marketing & Printing, Research, Strategic Planning & Consulting
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