Seeing The Light

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Members of Truliant FCU and other passers-by of the credit union's new headquarters have seen the light.

For the $1-billion credit union the light sits atop a 64-foot high fiberglass tower that glows and dims throughout the day, depending on the level of service to the credit union's 200,000 members.

The unusual tool, which has been dubbed an obelisk-like the ones triumphant heroes of the Roman Empire used to celebrate their conquests-is the brainchild of Truliant CEO Marc Schaefer, who is constantly searching for ideas to gauge and strengthen the value of membership in his credit union beacon. Truliant was formerly known as AT&T Family FCU and was the focus of a decade-long field of membership war with the banks.

Throughout the day, the ambient light on top of the obelisk changes tint based on members' responses to two questions. The first is: overall, how would you rate the quality of the service at your credit union. The second is: do you feel like a part of Truliant FCU.

Truliant is using the data from its ongoing survey with every fifth member served in the branches, contact center and when using online banking. A pop-up window appears and members have the option of opting out of the survey.

The light gradually changes colors as member sentiment changes: to a different shade of blue; to yellow; then green.

Blue means the members are happy. Yellow means less so. Green indicates the members aren't so happy.

A satellite feed from the headquarters offices and a half dozen Truliant branches, including five in nearby Charlotte, constantly sends data to the obelisk, which updates the survey results and colors every 17 minutes.

"The reason this was done was to measure member satisfaction," said Schaefer, who got the idea from an article he read in Businessweek talking about the drive for customer satisfaction. Then Schaefer saw an orb in Brookstone, a consumer electronics and gadgets store. So he put the two together. "It's another one of my cockamamie ideas," he joked.

An ambient orb light is used to gauge the Dow Jones average on the New York Stock Exchange but Truliant is believed to be the first business to use it to display customer satisfaction.

So far, the beacon stays blue most of the time. The most recent data shows that 85% of the 13,824 members surveyed said they are "very satisfied" with their service. A similarly overwhelming margin feel they are a part of the credit union.

Schaefer has been working to promote the value of credit union members in light of the growing conversions to mutual savings banks, and constantly stresses the member/ownership at his credit union.

The members' tower is located outside of Truliant's new $20 million headquarters, where the credit union moved a year ago. The branches have smaller "orbs," or lights that indicate member satisfaction.

Schaefer and his staff at Truliant hope you can always color them blue.

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