As seen in CU Times March 23, 2016, issue.
I recently attended NAFCU's Strategic Growth Conference in San Diego and the theme of the gathering wasn't: “How do we sell more products to grow?” The unofficial theme that quickly percolated to the surface was: “How can credit unions improve the lives of consumers?” From there, you will get growth.
Nothing too earth shattering here. But the refreshing aspect was that this message was consistently delivered by credit union CEOs. Gone are the days of yore when sales speaks through wrinkled newspapers, crackling radios and tube TVs. Yes, selling is still involved ultimately, but not overtly. That isn't how credit unions roll these days.
Don't get me wrong; rates are great, but it seems every financial institution has great rates in this era of 0.00008% APR. Nearly everybody knows it, though. As a primary message, it's become diluted. As a closer, it's still needed. The great connector now is: How can we improve your life?
This simple question connects because it has emotion behind it – and that sells.
The emotion stems from life's wants and desires: Wanting to be out of debt, a new home, a better car, an excellent education, a vacation, a worry-free retirement, 80-inch flat screen, investing advice or comfort. Our lives are home improvement projects always in the works and credit unions are the HGTV shows that can help make those improvements and quench those desires.
For example, we’ve all seen those home buying/renovation shows that feature an emotional couple getting caught up in the moment on whether to go with the waist-high wainscoting or wheat-colored wallpaper. It's fraught with tension – until the experts show up and provide sound advice on the better option. The once-weeping couple is now joyful with their choice after seeing the finished version of their fixer upper.
That's you, credit unions. No, not the tearful couple, but the experts saving the day. They’re emotionally charged and emotions drive action.
I’m looking at California Coast Credit Union's webpage right now, which is laden with life milestone images and emotional text:
For young professionals: “Life is getting busier and better by the minute. Together, we can get you where you want to be.”
For retirees: “Congratulations! You deserve this time for yourself. Together, we can get you where you want to be.”
For parents: “You’re juggling so much and caring for so many. Let us help you plan for your family's future.”
For college graduates: “You have your whole life ahead of you. Together, we can get you where you want to be.”
Notice there isn't a lick of rates mentioned. It's all “how we can improve your life” content – which resonates with all of us. It's the story you want to tell.
So what's your story? It's the credit union difference – not necessarily the member-owned, not-for-profit, low rate stuff. It's important, but most consumers today want action. What have you done for me lately?
As NAFCU Executive Vice President and COO Anthony Demangone shared in his presentation, it's extreme member service that improves lives – the actions that make news and create word of mouth. That's action we all can relate to, are attracted to and admire.
Demangone shared a couple of stories as samples of extreme service. One was from the Ritz Carlton. No, it wasn't about an honest-to-a-fault valet returning an accidental $100 tip for the intended $10 tip for parking a guest's Bentley. It was something much more humble, fun and relatable.
A family staying at the Ritz Carlton left the resort for home, but one of the kids left behind their stuffed animal: Joshie the Giraffe. A child losing their stuffed animal is like one of us losing our smartphone – a life or death situation. So the desperate dad calls the hotel to see if someone was able to locate Joshie.
The hotel's staff did find Joshie, thankfully. But here's where the extreme service kicks in. Staff members didn't just return the stuffed animal. With staff guidance, Joshie experienced many adventures during his solo stay at the Ritz Carlton – all documented on film: Sunning himself by the pool, getting a massage at the spa, making friends with other stuffed animals and driving a golf cart on the beach.
This amusing act of extreme service not only enhanced the vacationing family's loyalty, it also made headlines nationwide – most likely capturing the hearts (and dollars) of would-be Ritz Carlton vacationers. They didn't have to sell a thing. Their actions did all the selling.
Another story Demangone shared was closer to home for us: Visions Federal Credit Union President/CEO Tyrone Muse went undercover bagging groceries at the local Giant grocery store in Bethlehem, Penn. Muse would then tell shoppers who he really was and kindly paid for their groceries – showing the credit union difference and improving lives.
Visions didn't officially garner any new members that day, but the promotion did fill the credit union's staff and members with tremendous pride – along with making local and industry news and spreading word of mouth advertising from existing members to friends, family and peers. The fruits of its labor will most likely increase membership down the road.
And Visions didn't peep an ounce of sales speak. You can bet your bottom dollar that Muse wasn't talking rates while he was bagging and buying groceries. It was all generous action toward improving people's lives. Again, that's how credit unions roll.
So what is your credit union doing to improve the lives of members? What emotional story are you telling to make a difference and do the selling for you?
Author: Mike Lawson
Married to a most gorgeous and wonderful wife, raising 5 kiddos (including twins!), enjoy helping others tell their stories, and love surfing SoCal waves. Keep it simple.