Everyone Is Talking About Service; Why Are So Few Delivering?

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One of the ways I make my living is doing service training with credit unions. And by no means am I or credit unions alone in this effort. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people and companies whose sole function is to consult on and help improve customer service levels.

So as I travel around our great land visiting and interacting with airlines, retail outlets, restaurants and a host of other "service providers," what is it I most often encounter? Bad service.

Why is that? I mean, aren't you tired of being put on hold by organizations and listening to 20 minutes of Yanni music (and I like Yanni)? Enough already.

The reason is that many organizations (even some of our credit unions) are missing the boat regarding service. They are concentrating on one-shot training programs instead of focusing on developing a long-term approach to member (customer) service. In addition credit unions must understand the value of creating "lifetime" relationships with our members. When members are viewed as transactions only, the result is often bad service.

Consumers (our members) should be looked at as Kings and Queens in America because they have three things going for them: 1) Choice, 2) Access and 3) Resources. Members do not have to credit union (bank) with us. Members are the life-blood of our credit unions, yet so many credit unions seem to be willing to bleed themselves to death.

How we treat members should be looked upon as our key competitive advantage in a financial services industry in which competitors' mergers have led to service shortcomings and members eager to embrace someplace that will embrace them back. Credit unions in most cases can compete on price, product offerings or convenience. However, we can really compete on personal, friendly service! Membership should have its advantages and be what differentiates us in the marketplace.

Those organizations that can add value to consumer's lifestyles will be very successful in the future. And becoming a "Member Centric" credit union is what it's all about in terms of service. That first value when it comes to service is Valuing the Member! More needs to be done in our movement to train employees to treat members in that fashion. More training emphasis needs to be focused on professionalism, sales, coaching and personal concierge activities.

But what is often overlooked here is this-it all starts with how credit unions treat their employees. If you train, value and treat your employees in a caring way, they will care for and serve your members in a world-class fashion.

The secret to being a world-class service credit union? It's no secret at all. Need an example: the next time you're in a "service" establishment and are treated poorly, ask yourself how you think the establishment treats its employees. Then ask yourself how your own credit union's employees would answer that same question. Their answers will tell you a lot about your service levels.

John A. Vardallas, CAE, CUDE is a credit union speaker/business strategist and Founder/CEO of TheAmericanBoomeR, a Madison, Wisconsin based consulting firm. He can be reached at jvardallas aol.com.

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