If you are looking for earth-shattering news or insights, you can stop reading now. If you’d like to know why the United States or the world for that matter would be a better place if we had more credit union-minded people, by all means, keep on reading. I’m biased. I work at a credit union, I’m co-founder of a CUSO and well, I just plain love credit unions, but why? I’ve had a couple of different “big boy jobs” and I also was a customer at a bank until I began working at VacationLand Federal Credit Union (VLFCU) in Sandusky, Ohio. Admittedly, I didn’t transfer all of my accounts over immediately. I thought the process would be the equivalent of being water-boarded. It wasn’t.
It was about two weeks into my new position when I realized things in the credit union world were very different. I can remember thinking, “Wow, these people really care about what they do and who they serve.” It was like an epiphany. It was a great fit for me too as I spent my time prior to joining the VLFCU team working as a social worker and a marketer at a Catholic school. In all three endeavors, people were always the priority.
My experience at VLFCU (which I am sure is the very similar to most CU employees) has been nothing but positive. I (we) go to work everyday with the intention of making someone’s life simpler, less complex. We enhance our member’s lives by providing them with the services that they need, but how we go about it is entirely different that other organizations. We pride ourselves on “member service” and unfortunately that term tends to get people myself included to roll one’s eyes. After all, service should be something that is implied. Something that should already exist. We shouldn’t have to tell others that we’re good at what we do, if we weren’t we wouldn’t be in business.
While I think this is true to a large extent, I don’t think we would totally do away with messaging that raises awareness about our ability to provide superior member service. Just last week, James Robert Lay wrote an excellent piece for CUinsight.com. If you click this link, you will see how James explains that bigger is not always better. I believe that he is absolutely correct. Our size is in fact one of our biggest assets. It is the reason we can provide the level of service that we do.
This became evident to me this past weekend when I was in one of my home improvement trances. Every once in a while I will become fixated on taking on 10 (exaggeration) projects around the house. This time it was sanding my staircase down to stain and getting new blinds hung throughout the house. I started the staircase project and as I am more of a Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor type than I am Bob Villa, I needed to get some supplies to patch up some “mistakes” I made while “improving” my home. Either way, I had to go buy blinds too.
I went to a place that rhymes with comb repo to purchase some patching supplies and of course, blinds. I went to the blind section, found what I needed and asked to have someone cut them down to size for me. After 35 minutes, I still stood there being “that guy”. At least 7 (not exaggerating) employees passed me. Most avoided eye contact while the others explained that there is only one person that can cut down blinds and she will be with me when she can. If you know me at all, you know that I write really long blog posts and that when I want to complete a job or project I want to do it now! I left the comb repo and called up another establishment that sounds a lot like “Joe’s”. I asked if they would be willing to cut down blinds I already had if I was to purchase several hundreds of dollars of merchandise from them. No dice. I called another lesser known establishment and had the same luck. 0 for 3.
This got me thinking about how this would have been handled by credit union-minded people.
- There would have been more than one employee capable of cutting down my blinds at the Comb Repo. In fact, they would have known my name, what kind of dog I have and probably have made sure I left happy and with BLINDS!
- At “Joe’s” they would have said, “Sure we can cut down those blinds for you and we’re glad you chose us for the rest of your household needs.” (shared branching)
- No eye contact? Really? If those employes were customer-minded (member-minded) they would have stayed with me or at least actually got someone to provide me the service I was requesting, not to mention knowing my dog’s name etc.
My point is this: While member service should not what we claim is the only thing that makes us different from big banks, it is a very real and game-changing aspect of what we do. It is what makes people say they love THEIR credit union. It really is a competitive advantage and it makes a huge difference as it turns our members into advocates and keeps them coming back. I can honestly say that it will be a while before I return to the “Comb Repo” or “Joe’s”. I’m sure there are plenty of locally owned businesses that would love my business and make sure I keep coming back to them.
For the 3 of you who read this until the bitter end, I’d like to know what you think. Does this make sense or am I just really impatient? How can credit unions leverage this to its fullest extent without beating the same drum too much? I’d love to hear your thoughts!