Maybe They'd Belong If Branches Were Cleaner

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This headline recently appeared in a newspaper: "Wading River Man Arrested in Teachers Federal Credit Union Robbery." I suppose he was easy to identify, as he was soaking wet from the knees down. ("Wading River" is actually a reference to a town in New York.)


A final observation before filing away the Reporter's Notebook from CO-OP Financial Services' recent THINK 11 Conference. The conference had an all-star line-up of business and thought-leaders, as was reported extensively recently in Credit Union Journal. Internationally known speaker and author Sir Ken Robinson. Dress for Success founder Nancy Lublin. Virgin America's Porter Gale. Skateboard legend Tony Hawk.

All of them had two things in common: All are members of the Great Success Club, and none are members of a credit union. The conference emcee asked each if they were a CU member and in every case the answer was a bashful, "Um, uh, no." When Hawk was asked point blank, for instance, "Where is your money," he responded, "It's in a bank, but if you have an application I could fill it out."

When Hawk was then asked what he would need to know in order to make the switch to a credit union, he answered, "In terms of accessibility and communication, if I do have a problem can I call someone immediately and get something taken care of? When I was in Europe I lost my wallet in the Amsterdam airport, and I'd like to know when I come home, can I get help immediately?"

CUNA CEO Bill Cheney, who was onstage during that exchange, followed by saying, "We often find accessibility being the top issue of concern by non-members." And then Cheney was quick to remind Hawk there are plenty of credit unions in his hometown of San Diego.

The only speaker to the meeting who claimed credit union membership, incidentally, was Bruce Kimbrell of the Disney Institute, who has been a two-decade member of his workplace credit union, Partners FCU.

There is a subtle lesson in all of that about the value of credit unions in the workplace and that old-fashioned abbreviation "SEG." SEGs continue to be effective connections to consumers, and shouldn't stand for So-long Everybody, and Goodbye.


Speaking of Mr. Kimbrell, he shared as an aside a little finding in Disney's research that more than coincidentally reinforces something else that was recently reported in Credit Union Journal. It's a finding that may have a strong bearing on your branch performance that perhaps you haven't given much thought to as you are busy measuring members' wait times or making sure the coffee is fresh.

What is the No. 1 reason so many people visit a Disney property? According to Kimbrell, it's "how clean it is." He shared that insight with a small group of credit union executives (inside Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, which was very clean, incidentally), at the same time JD Power & Associates was releasing a study on the "Five factors that drive customer satisfaction" with financial institutions (see related story).

The metric that has the biggest impact on the overall satisfaction rating, according to JD Power, is problem resolution. But running a close second, and it might surprise some, observed JD Power, is "branch appearance." "This reinforces the importance of looking at the security at your branches and their look and feel," said a company analyst

"The key aspects of look and feel are exterior elements, such as the parking lot, trash picked up, and the building's coat of paint, as well as the interior," the analyst said. "Make sure the carpet is clean. Many of these little things we become desensitized to as branch managers."

JD Power went on to say that emphasis has been placed by banks on the number of branches and the branch hours, but "branch appearance dwarfed" those elements within the facilities rating. "The appearance of the branch impacts 34% of the facilities customer satisfaction score more than staying open later and on weekends," JD Power noted.

And if you're wondering what, in the case of Disney, are the other primary reasons people see Magic in the Kingdom, it's not a desire to wait an hour in a hot line to drive a car that has one-one-hundredth the performance capability of your own car or a strong urge to have that maddening It's A Small World song stuck in your head for a week. Instead, said Kimbrell, "No. 2 is how friendly people are. And No. 3 is how safe they feel. So the reward for us comes in knowing those three things and getting a culture and a cast that performs in that manner."


Recently I had the honor, as part of the Michigan league's annual meeting, to speak informally with a group of "Crashers" in attendance. Crashers, if you haven't been keeping up, is the broad term that has come to represent all young CU employees, the name implying it's not so much Gen X and the Millennial Generation as it is the Generation That Doesn't Expect To Pay To Attend.

It was an interesting and insightful exchange, but being reassured there is good management talent in the pipeline wasn't my biggest takeaway. Instead, my takeaway came two weeks later, when I received hand-written thank-you notes from the attendees. True, most had messages such as "Thank you for not speaking even longer," and "Thank you for reassuring me there will apparently always be a job available in journalism," but they were thank-you notes nonetheless.

Who says the younger generation has forgotten its manners?

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at

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