CU Finds Effective Way To 'Drive' Home The Message

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Two employees at Orange County's Credit Union will be cruising Southern California's famous freeways in style for the next year after winning a competition for delivering exemplary service to the credit union's members.

Lynda Hill, the senior vice president of retail services for Orange County's CU, said Margo Wassenaar, an information systems specialist, and Member Service Representative Christina Williams each won a one-year, credit union-paid lease on a new vehicle, plus additional money for gasoline and insurance. Wassenaar is behind the wheel of a Jeep Liberty SUV; while Williams took home a Chrysler Sebring convertible.

"It is quite an innovative incentive," said Hill. "It shows our commitment to recognizing and rewarding our associates."

Last year marked Orange County's CU's first annual "Members First Awards" competition. Each month during 2002, approximately seven to 10 associates were nominated. The $640-million, 72,000-member CU has 220 employees in its six branches.

Both managers and peers submit nominations for the monthly awards. Hill said this demonstrates that "everyone realizes how important member service is."

Each month, the CU chooses one winner from the service side (people who deal directly with members at branches or in the call center) and one from the support side (which includes personnel in accounting, facilities, marketing, human resources and technology).

The two monthly winners each receive a $250 cash reward, and then are in the running for the respective annual awards.

The competition was the brainchild of Hill and two other senior officers in the CU. She said the trio developed the idea based on member feedback.

"They told us how important it is to do business at a financial institution where they are treated like a human being, not like a number," she explained. "The members also told us how important our associates are, so now we put pictures of our associates in all of our written material, including brochures and advertising."

According to Hill, Orange County's CU is "very pleased" with the program so far. She said the credit union saw a measurable increase in the level of member satisfaction from 2001 to 2002, and said it is hoping for another improvement this year.

The credit union is sweetening the pot further in 2003-the grand prize will be two first class tickets to Hawaii, hotel accommodations, a week of paid time off and $1,000 in spending money.

"There is a lot of enthusiasm among the associates themselves. Many people are talking about that trip to Hawaii," she said.

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