• Fred Kelly

The 3 Components You Need for an Amazing Member Experience

What is so special about credit unions? If credit unions didn't exist would we invent them? Are they a future relic like the internal combustion engine, or an indispensable cog in the financial ecosystem?


To be able to answer that we need to know why people choose between a credit union, a bank or a FinTech. As you already know, financial services is incredibly competitive. How do you stand out from the crowd with an offering that is so compelling, the customer refuses to go anywhere else?


The simple answer is an absolute obsession with the customer experience. Not to be confused with customer service which is reactive, member experience is proactive, designed and baked into everything your credit unions does. Member experience is measured by how members feel about your credit union. This should be the top of the agenda at every team meeting, board meeting and conference.


The idea that I am selling to you is that how members feel about you will determine whether your credit union is here in another 20 years or not

It isn’t whether you have the cheapest rates, whether you are not-for-profit, how long you have been in business, that you are member-owned, whether you feel you are invested in the community, or whether you offer a range of personal and business banking services. Yet I found all of these in the first 3 results of a “credit union USA” Google search.


Don’t get me wrong. These are admirable things. They just aren’t the things that will propel you towards your objective - to stand out from the crowd with an offering that is so compelling the customer refuses to go anywhere else.


How Do You Achieve That?


There are three key ingredients we need to reach the heights we strive for. I’ve listed them from the easiest to the hardest. They are all in reach of any credit union, big or small, that chooses to embrace them.



A Functional Product

Let’s start with the basics. You need a functional product. Functional and easy to use. That’s all. You don’t need a massive product range. You don’t need a rewards scheme. Make the screens simple and clear. Have low latency. Yes technology is important, but it’s not the main driver of member experience. Technology is a valuable tool, but only when bolted onto a carefully designed member-oriented process.


A Member-Oriented Process

If you want to have members that feel great about your credit union consistently and rave about it to their friends and family, then you need a way of providing a consistent experience. This requires a process that is designed from the member’s emotional perspective. Whether it is a loan application, onboarding, a payment or an early repayment, ask yourself at every step “how will the member feel?”.


Here’s a quick example of something that I’ve never seen done anywhere in financial services. When you grant a loan to a member, you require them to make regular repayments on time. We have all made loan repayments at some point in our lives, perhaps a mortgage or an auto loan.


If you miss a payment, you can be sure someone will come knocking, but how many times have you been thanked for making a repayment? Does it feel good to be thanked? Yes, of course. Reward the behavior you want to see and make the borrower feel appreciated. It’s a genuine win-win.


Processes are the backbone of success in member experience, but you can’t design processes for every scenario. That’s why there’s a third ingredient - culture.


A Member Experience Culture

I used to go to Dublin frequently when I was working for an Irish bank. When I could, I’d stay at the Four Seasons Hotel close to the office. One day, after check out, as I started to head out of the door to walk to the office, I was met with a wall of rain. Not uncommon in Dublin!


I paused in the doorway wondering how wet my suit would get if I made the 300-yard dash to the bank’s headquarters. As I surveyed the leaden skies looking for a non-existent break in the clouds, I was approached by the doorman. “Mr Kelly, please allow me” he smiled, as he handed me an umbrella and ushered me towards a Jaguar saloon. 5 minutes later I was being delivered to the front entrance of the bank ready for my meetings.


How did I feel? Special. So special that I have told this story more times than I can remember. I am a walking talking advertisement for the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. (Did I tell you about the time I swam in their infinity pool overlooking Hong Kong Harbor? Underwater music! Who else would do that!?).


Did they have a process for dealing with customers that loitered in the doorway waiting for the rain to stop and worrying about being late for meetings? I very much doubt it. So how did it happen? Culture. Everybody is very clear about their collective mission, and they are empowered to achieve it.

Culture is about what you do and don’t do as a leader in your credit union. The high bar is set by how you act and what you reward. The low bar is set by what standards of behavior you tolerate.

What’s the Future Hold For Credit Unions?

In spite of the accelerating pace of change in financial services, there is still a degree of inertia in the credit union industry. However, there are some encouraging signs. More and more credit unions are starting to embrace innovation, and we are seeing the appointment of Chief Experience Officers, responsible for the member experience.


This is a clear indication that the industry is strengthening its understanding and commitment to the member experience. The level of obsession in this mission will determine whether credit unions are here in another 20 years, or like the internal combustion engine, sit on display in a museum.



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