A Methodology For Moving The CU From Good Service To Great Service

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Defining good member service is often defined in terms dictated by the organization instead of defining good member service in terms dictated by the member.

Several organizations define good service and train their employees based on the following principles: smile and greet each member/customer; use their name, and thank them for their business. Unfortunately, this creates a one-size-fits-all approach for delivering good service and leaves out a myriad of other opportunities to provide good service even when not facing the member.

Too often service organizations only perceive face time as an opportunity to provide outstanding service to members/customers. In reality a larger percentage of good service can be accomplished when not facing the member, especially in the financial services industry.

Why is service such a concern? First, good service is really not an acceptable level anymore. The consumer expects a much higher level of service than ever. They want personalized, professional and quick service during all of their interactions. Good service doesn't retain members to your organization. Secondly, outstanding service can be a differentiating factor for an organization to attract and retain members. Even in today's society, outstanding service is recognized, talked about and appreciated.

Many consumers desire to find value over the best price. Price is a primary factor however consumers are willing to pay slightly higher prices if they perceive intrinsic value from the relationship. The dilemma is truly outstanding service that creates a differentiation in the marketplace is difficult to attain and maintain.

Developing A Method

The issue is developing a method to move an organization from good service to outstanding service based on member expectations rather than organizational expectations. A one-size-fits-all approach to service will not allow an organization to deliver outstanding service on a consistent basis to a wide range of consumers to develop a reputation of outstanding service.

What is the best way to foster a culture of outstanding service to a wide range of consumer preferences and expectations? Before developing the culture of outstanding service is a prerequisite determining how the organization defines outstanding service to the member?

The second question is the most important for any organization and is the foundation of outstanding service. Answering this question is where many organizations falter. They define service expectations on their terms and only at member facing situations instead of recognizing service extends beyond member contact points and to the entire experience of the member. The problem to solve: How can an organization understand the entire member experience to truly develop a definition of outstanding service?

Possible Solutions & Goals

To define truly outstanding service and understand the member experience three different approaches can be utilized. The approaches are different in scope and time of completion and will yield different results. The overriding goal for all of the solutions sets is to define truly outstanding service and be able to communicate that to every employee of the organization.

Part of this goal is to also understand the processes of every transaction performed by the credit union that impact the member either directly or indirectly. The solutions must address the need to understand member-driven scenarios and not organizational-driven scenarios when defining optimal service considerations.

One solution that can be implemented is the use of surveys. Departmental and organizational surveys can be implemented to gather data. The surveys can be transactional based, i.e. based upon actions initiated by the member to generate a survey or randomly based surveys. Surveys can be formatted for the Internet, phone or mail depending upon the transaction and data required. The survey results would then provide input on what matters to members as it relates to service and from that a definition of good service could be developed.

A second possible solution is to conduct a series focus group meetings with the main purpose of asking members their definition of outstanding service. The focus group's participants could be selected based upon demographic attributes. The output from the focus groups could be used to formulate a definition of good service that could be a shared vision for the organization. The benefit of the focus group approach over the survey is the ability to be more interactive and the ability to drill down to uncover true meanings.

A third possible solution is to view each process of the credit union through the eyes of the member. This involves mapping out the entire member experience, either directly or indirectly, for each interaction with the credit union. The goal is to move the process from an organizational-driven scenario to a member-focused scenario. The Mapping the Member Experience approach provides an organizational-wide view and understanding of each process completed by the credit union. Adding in relevant survey and member feedback also provides clues on problems in the process.

The key to success of the member-driven process is to be member oriented instead of organizationally oriented. How does this help an organization understand the member experience to improve service? Because the organization now has the entire processed mapped and can determine possible failure points, redundant or needless process and also establish performance goals and many more appropriate places. Process redesign is then formulated from the member's perspective not the credit union's perspective. A byproduct of this orientation towards development is improved service and better recognition of poor service when it occurs due to standards and performance measures.

Action Plan

At left is a step-by-step action plan to be implemented for mapping the member process at the credit union. This plan will be utilized to engage the credit union in this process.

The success of this project will be determined by the amount of movement the team is able to effect from the current process to the ideal process that is mapped. These movements can include streamlining of processes, ending redundant processes and eliminating processes that contribute no value or serve no purpose. Ultimately if the credit union's processes are redesigned to provide the best member experience this solution will be a success.

The internal and external obstacles will be numerous. First and foremost will be the reaction from credit union personnel who will always be reluctant to change their processes, especially if their workload is increased. Additionally, many regulatory issues will need to be addressed as some of the potential changes will require compliance review and a better understanding by credit union personnel of regulations. Technology will also be a temporary barrier as there will be process improvements suggested that will be beyond current technological capabilities. To overcome the reluctance of employees to embrace changes will likely be the most onerous obstacle. Methods to overcome this obstacle include top-level support for suggested changes and inclusion of key employees from affected workgroups in the development of the new processes.

The human resources available for this project are more than adequate as the people who could contribute to the team include almost every employee of the credit union because the purpose of this solution is not to incrementally improve the process but rather reinvent the process through the eyes of the consumer. Resource allocation will be an issue when it comes to being able to requisition time for IT and compliance reviews to implement suggested changes. External resources will be relegated to member surveys and consumer research information.

The benefit to the credit union from implementing the Mapping the Member Experience process is that the member experience will always be defined by what is best for the member not what is easiest for the employee. If all processes can ultimately be derived from this perspective, member satisfaction will only increase and the members will find it easier to conduct and transact their business with the credit union.

The biggest challenge is always keeping the member perspective in the forefront when improving processes and sustaining constant innovation over incremental changes. This may seem simple, but most organizations will struggle keeping the focus on truly designing processes that are focused on the member instead of the practices or technology of the organization.

About This Article

This analysis by C. Andrew Mattingly was written as an Organizational Effectiveness SWAP Progject as part of the Credit Union Executives Society's CEO Institute II. Mr. Mattingly is senior vice president of marketing and strategy with FORUM Credit Union in Indianapolis. For more information on CUES, visit www.cues.org.

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