'The Shift Is On.' Are You Ready?

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What can credit unions learn from the Best Practices on display in other industries?

Plenty, according to Bob Vedder, VP-retail media with Newground. Vedder closed The Credit Union Journal's Best Practices conference with peer leaders in numerous industries, especially retailing. All of the leaders, he noted, demonstrate a market truth: the economy is rapidly shifting from retail to an experience-based event and credit unions need to pay attention. "The shift is on. Get ready!" Vedder said.

Vedder cited successful companies such as Southwest, Starbucks, Target, and Harley Davidson for providing a consistent and meaningful experience for customers. And who, asked Vedder, could have seen the day when people would spend half-a-day at the mall constructing a stuffed toy-and leaving their money behind? The founders of Build-A-Bear did. Vedder added that Wal-Mart is "scared to death" of Target with its hip, cool atmosphere that appeals to the young set, plus its easy to use, wide aisles for shopping. "This is not my mom's and grandma's discount store," he said.

Vedder asked the audience how Starbucks can take a lonely little coffee bean and turn it into not just a $4 per cup transaction, but a lifestyle of its own. Indeed, the company's goal is to become a "third destination" after home and work, and he noted one Starbucks executive recently described the company's participation in the "experience economy." "We're not in the coffee business," he quoted the Starbucks executive as saying, "we're in the people business." One other interesting note about Starbucks: the company doesn't advertise.

Although Vedder observed that banks and credit unions have typically followed retailing trends by about a decade, he said some CUs are ahead of that curve. He pointed to Five Point CU in Port Arthur, Texas to show how a CU could transform the member experience. Five Point CU displayed its Texaco history (its name is derived from the Texaco star) on the walls of its branches and moved its tellers from behind the traditional teller line. "I don't think tellers are dead, they need to be repositioned," Vedder said. "They're not behind some Plexiglas wall. They're there talking to you face to face."

Vedder said the questions every credit union must ask itself are, "How do you see you, how do your members see you, and how do others see you?"

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