Six More Steps To Revitalizing Your Credit Union

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In the first of our two-part series (The Credit Union Journal, July 12) we introduced The 9 Critical Pathways to revitalization, and discussed how the first three create a solid foundation to any comprehensive revitalization plan.

In this final installment of the series we'll review pathways four through nine.

Pathway # 4-Member Service

Communication can make or break relationships of every kind. Communication via the right words and the appropriate style has a great deal to do with member perception of services. Do your employees seem to have frequent misunderstandings with members? Are employees being trained to really listen carefully? When problems present themselves keep track of just what it was and how it was solved.

Consider this idea to improve member service. Create a list of problems encountered and the actions taken to solve them. Regularly review this information to reveal the types of problems you are encountering, how frequently they are occurring, and what solutions are working. It's a great training tool and a powerful way to monitor the effectiveness of the operations you reviewed in stage one.

Pathway #5-Products & Services

Timely products and services that meet specific needs, that's what your members want. Ease of delivery and profitability is what you want. The key is to find the right balance. To get started with your products and services revitalization effort, you need to do some simple analysis using your customer information system.

Start by creating a comprehensive list of the products and services you offer. Review your list and ask:

A. How many of your members used this product or service last year?

B. What was the contribution of this product or service to your bottom line last year?

C. How much money did you spend promoting and servicing this product or service last year?

D. If you did not already offer this product or service would you add it at this time?

The answers to these questions will be revealing. Chances are you'll find some products and services that need to be eliminated-they are not used enough or are simply not profitable. You may also see some gaps revealed-opportunities for adding products that can improve performance.

Pathway #6-People

One of the realities of most credit unions is that they tend to have bi-polar employees-employees in two distinct groups that is. One group has been with the credit union for a very long time. The other group has been added within the last five to seven years to support growth efforts. Their perspectives are different, their experiences are different, and their needs are different. But the ultimate success of your credit union will depend upon your ability to lead these two groups as you implement your vision and serve your members.

Here is a quick look at four things all of your people need:

Clear Expectations. Your people need to know what is expected of them, how much latitude they have, and who they can turn to for support.

A Sense of Purpose. Everyone needs to know that their day-to-day tasks are linked to the overall mission and vision to increase their commitment to the credit union.

A Positive Work Environment. Attitude is everything in business and all attitudes, good and bad, are contagious. The leaders of your credit union need to focus on setting the attitude each day and on making the environment a positive place.

Recognition and Reward. We all perform better when appreciated, acknowledged publicly and periodically for additional rewards. To give it even more meaning, ask your people what they would consider a motivating reward and then give that reward to them!

Building a culture that works takes time, but as small steps are taken, the effort will build upon itself. Make this critical pathway a priority and your credit union will reap ongoing rewards in many forms.

Pathway #7-Identity

Have you defined clearly to your marketplace just who you are? "Branding" creates a familiarity and comfort for customers. People like doing business with an entity that they clearly understand, and which presents a consistent, recognizable presence.

Create a clearly defined image, which aligns with your vision and mission. One way is to update your look (logo, brochures, stationary, color scheme). But the real key is to keep attention on what makes your credit union unique and different, and find a catchy way to communicate this. Create a tag line that defines your credit union, such as "XYZ Credit Union -The Friendliest People in Town." Put your tagline everywhere: on your signs, on your letterhead, on your business cards and brochures. This step alone will yield big returns.

Pathway #8-Community Presence

How many of your managers belong to local business networking groups? How frequently are your employees out in the community volunteering? Depending on where you are located, there may be a plethora of opportunities for community involvement via clubs, charitable organizations and events. Community presence means credit union representatives being visible!

Position your credit union leaders as the experts in your community. To many, the financial world seems ominous and complicated. People look to experts who have deciphered all of the language, facts and figures that they aren't well versed in, and they rely on experts to interpret this information and make recommendations.

Consider creating a speakers bureau consisting of your managers and leaders. Choose key topics that explore answers to the most commonly asked questions and information that people need to know about financial services-you will gain both members and share of wallet.

Pathway #9-Facilities

The look, ambiance and physical environment of your credit union-your facilities-are our final revitalization pathway. Assess everything about your facilities from the paint to the drapes to the machines and equipment.

From the moment your members, and potential members, drive up to the parking lot they get a feeling that they either will or won't want to do business with your credit union. First impressions linger and are very difficult to change.

Perception can be learned through surveys, focus groups and staff interaction with members and potential members.

And don't forget to take a look at the back end of your operation. The employee entrance, the conference room, and the operations center-the way they look impacts how your employees feel and that carries through to how they interact with one another and with your members. A coat of paint, some new pictures on the wall, and a more orderly appearance can go a long way in improving morale!

Your Personal Action Plan

In this series we've examined The Nine Critical Pathways you need to consider in launching your revitalization effort. Much of what we have discussed is easy to do and not all that costly. The problem is that it is easier not to do it.

In the final analysis, there are no guarantees. But if you want to make sure that your credit union survives and thrives in the decade ahead-Revitalize Now! (Before it's too late).

Michael Hudson, Ph.D., a.k.a. The Everyday Leadership Authority, is a frequent speaker at credit union conventions and a consultant to individual credit unions on leadership, team building, and business strategy. He can be reached at www.CreditUnionLeader.com.

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