'Welcome Home' Turning The Ordinary Into The Compelling

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CU: Franklin Mint

Category: Member Satisfaction & Retention

People, not profits are the lifeblood of a credit union.

The proof, says Cindy Wanamaker, SVP/COO at Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union here, is in the responses from members a year after implementing an innovative program called "Welcome Home" that was aimed at transforming mundane and ordinary transactions into compelling member interactions.

Wanamaker joined a partnership of 11 financial institution executives from across the nation in the Deluxe Knowledge Exchange Collaborative, whose charge was to create a plan to best satisfy and retain members/customers for Deluxe Corp., of Shoreview, Minn.

"For more than a decade, financial institutions like Franklin Mint have faced a growing disengagement with customers," wrote DKEC in its best practice submission to The CU Journal. "Financial institutions lose approximately 15% to 30% of their customers each year, with a total cost to the industry reaching $15 billion annually."

While many of the ideas were as simple as using common courtesy, calling the member by name and asking them questions, the impact was huge. "The experience is made up of both conscious and unconscious components," Wanamaker said. "It is all about the details and we get our staff members to understand and pay attention to details."

The focus is on making the members feel welcomed, engaged and significant by using behavioral, environmental and functional elements, she said. "Part of the training includes staff members going out and looking for these same elements at both restaurants and a local financial institution," she said. "That hands-on experience really drives home what we want they to walk away with in the training."

She likened it to "welcoming a guest into your home. I don't think the elements are new, but we are tying everything together and staff are more aware of why and how all these things effect their members."

Wanamaker said she utilized many tools already in place at her own $360-million CU.

Some examples:

When a visually impaired man called a Franklin Mint branch requesting directions, an employee personally escorted the man from his bus stop to the service counter to make his transaction.

A member mentioned an upcoming hospital stay to an FMFCU employee, who responded by sending a card to the hospital for that member.

Adding desk connectors-props that include pictures or personal mementos-to the CUs environment sparked conversations and created that all-important human connection between members and employees. "It can become an ice breaker or initiate a conversation that helps relax the member and lead to more relationship building questions."

Wanamaker said her participation the exchange reinforced the importance of consistency and employee education.

"Forgoing speed and efficiency in favor of a personal connection pays off in the long run," she said.

The most prevalent outcome of the strategies created and implemented by the DKEC at 11 financial institutions, was member loyalty, she said. Customers/members indicated a much more favorable account-opening experience than those in control branches.

Examining The Results

* The percentage of customers "completely satisfied" with their new account-opening experience was 9% higher in test branches than in control branches.

* Test branch members felt more strongly than control branch members that their financial institution made a personal connection with them.

* Positive perceptions from the pilot design created a "halo effect," where perceptions of other unrelated factors were seen more favorably. For example, members felt that their financial institution did not make mistakes regarding their account and did not charge excessive transaction fees.

Wanamaker said she continues to utilize strategies created during her year-long stint with the DKEC.

"Come January, this will be the standard all across the board," Wanamaker said, explaining that during the testing phase, only three of FMFCU's 21 branches participated.

Once the credit union's staff is trained, Wanamaker said, the next focus would be on the getting the call center staff involved as well.

"We're not hocking this as a new program," she said. "It's just a cultural change. I definitely believe in the sales and service culture, but I'm a strong proponent of making a personal connection with members. I think this is another way of achieving the same end-results, and having everybody happier and much more involved in the process."

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