With Big, New Player In Town, CU Adds 'Concierges'

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In an effort to step up its performance standards and compete with its newest neighbor-Bank of America-new, highly trained member relations coordinators will serve as "concierges" in the lobbies of four of Charter Oak FCU's seven branches.

The $430-million Charter Oak said it already has "first-class" service standards, but expects its newest approach will help members feel welcome and heighten their awareness of the CU's products and services.

"Bank of America just rolled into town," said Ray Currier, AVP at COFCU. "It took over Fleet Bank, which was never really a competitor. Fleet had lousy service and lousy standards to their customers."

Bank of America, on the other hand, is very customer focused, he noted.

Currier said COFCU has spent the last four months planning the changes and training four senior employees to step into their new roles. "Traditionally, what every financial institution does is invite the member to walk in and go to the reception desk."

This new concept, he said, required "getting rid of our reception desks."

As part of their promotion to member relations coordinators, the four staff members had to undergo a rigorous training processing that included taking Dale Carnegie courses to enhance their public speaking and interact with members. They also traveled to the Trump Tower in New York to observe professional concierges at work.

"In addition, we sent them to different kinds of businesses (banks, credit unions and retail) on a fact-finding mission," Currier said. "They have to come back with a list of positive things they saw and things that needed improvement."

Currier said the new member relations coordinators also met with senior staff at Charter Oak in various departments to hone their knowledge of the CUs products and services.

The idea was the brainstorm of CEO L.K. Hertell, who said he was personally frustrated by retail establishments that lacked knowledgeable staff.

"We've all dealt with such inexperienced or unprofessional sales people that we just walk out," Currier said.

COFCU's new member relations coordinators will not only be able to direct the member to the area he needs to go to, they will be able to answer any question the member asks, he said, adding that their combined experience with credit unions totals 75 years.

While all of this new training does make these employees more valuable-perhaps even to outside companies-Currier said the title came with substantial incentives.

"You always run a risk when you educate your staff and bring them to the top," he said. "But we offer an attractive program that's tough to beat."

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