'Centering' In On Service

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Becoming "customer-centric" - or "member-centric" in credit union parlance -has been a favorite catch-phrase for some time, but just how does an organization go about making it happen?

For credit unions looking to make this type of transformation, they may want to take a hard look at how CUNA Mutual Group is attempting to do just that with its overall three-year improvement plan, and in particular, its customer operations pilot.

"Many credit unions, in particular larger credit unions where you have more scale, tend to have the exact same challenges we have," noted Rick Roy, CUNA Mutual's SVP-Customer Operations. "You have to start from the outside and work your way in. When you start from the outside, that always gives you a reality check."

When the firm went to its customers to learn what was working and what wasn't, the company got an earful.

"We had an idea of what was working and what wasn't, and we certainly heard some confirmation what we already thought. But we also heard some things we hadn't thought at all," Roy related, noting the next step is communicating that to staff.

"Be very candid with your employees right upfront that change is coming," Roy advised. "[Change] is not always popular, but it's the truth."

Timing that communication is also key. "We tell them what we know when we know it, we don't get bogged down in speculation," Roy related. "Sometimes you have to have the courage to admit when you don't know the answer to a question posed by your employees. Just commit to telling them what you do know."

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