Why Slower Service Can Actually Improve Your Bottom Line

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It's very likely that at your credit union it's time for a good old-fashioned conversation between your staff and your members.

We've heard over and over again that this year is the time for credit unions to step up and gain market share. And since a credit union's primary differentiator is service, talking to members shouldn't be an issue - or should it?

Over the past several years, I have listened to many credit union execs and managers talk about developing a stronger "sales culture." But if you are still searching for an effective way to get started building such a culture, I have a simple idea for you to consider - let's give them something to talk about!

The "them" in this case is your staff, and often they sometimes need a little help to have something to talk about with your members.

This can run counter to conventional wisdom, which says you need to handle member calls and visits as quickly as you can, which leads many CUs to establish goals for having quick calls and religiously measure their performance against these goals.

But what would happen if you tried to expand the conversation? I've worked with many credit unions over the years and one in particular actually works to keep its members on the phone longer. This allows staff to converse with members and cover a variety of topics — in addition to the primary reason the member contacted the credit union in the first place.

Really, all you can do is enhance the opportunity for conversation. These four words are the keys to the kingdom: information at your fingertips. Seriously. This is a prime time to step up the personal service.

Just think about it, if all employees who came into contact with a member have great information at their disposal regarding the specific relationship with that member, can you begin to imagine the conversation that can take place? Here are some simple examples:

• Ms. Jones, a member, calls the call center to ask for mail deposit envelopes and Sally the Service Representative sees on her screen that Ms. Jones has a checking account, uses online banking but not bill pay. An icon showing that bill payment is an unused service can kick-start a conversation.

• Mr. Gonzalez, another member, calls to see if he can arrange a loan payment electronically because he is just a bit late dropping the payment into the mail. While looking up Mr. Gonzalez' information, Morton the Member Representative sees a CD account that has been visually highlighted by turning bright green on the screen — indicating that this CD is due to mature in the next 45 days. A conversation about a rollover is initiated.

• Mr. Smith, a member, walks into a branch to talk with Laura the lending rep. Laura sees on her screen that just last week he reported a lost credit card, allowing her to ask if the matter was resolved and if anything more can be done.

Sure, these are relatively simple examples — and do not necessarily result in the sale of an additional product or service with the member at that point. But they are excellent examples of having and making use of specific information about past or future interactions with an individual member.

In each case, our employee successfully expanded the conversation with the member beyond the original reason they contacted us. In doing so they demonstrated that they are knowledgeable — and perhaps even more important — that they care about more than just transactions in the history log.

Mike Winter is CEO of fiVISION. Mr. Winter can be reached at mwinter@fivision.com.

Credit Union Journal encourages reader feedback. Letters to the Editor can be sent to Managing Editor Lisa Freeman at lfreeman@cujournal.com. Letters can also be faxed to 561-832-2939.

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