Make sure employees know as muchand hopefully morethan your members about personal finance; that way, your staff can be of real help
By Laura Enock
Nov. 10, 2009
Credit Union Management's Web-only "Teaching Smart Money Management" column runs the second Tuesday of every month.
Although the culture of your credit union comes from the top, it doesn't stay there. Your members' experience with the credit union is very much based on what they see, hear and feel when they walk into your branches and meet with your staff. It is not your senior staff or your departmental managers who are mostly responsible for creating that impression; rather, it is your member service representatives, your tellers and your loan officers. I'm talking about your credit union's font-line staff, and I am sure that observation comes as no surprise.
From a marketing standpoint, if your front-line staff is less than knowledgeable about a product, a promotion or a new member campaign, your efforts and the resources used to offer these services may well be worthless. Smart marketing directors know that and include training the front-line staff or-at the very least-providing detailed memos to anyone who will work with members face to face as part of their strategy.
But what do your front-line staffers need to know from a financial education standpoint? Do your MSRs know enough about basic money management to have an intelligent conversation with your members? To spot a payday lending cycle? To recommend a debt consolidation loan when one is needed (or before it's too late)?
If your credit union offers financial education in any format, it should be required reading or attendance for anyone who will interact with your members, whether it is in person or by phone. You want members to find that the MSR they work with understands exactly what they need to know. In short, your staff should know at least as much as your members.
If there isn't (yet) a financial literacy program at your credit union, you'll still want your front-line staff to have a basic understanding of the challenges your members are facing, and what the solutions are. They should be able to use such words as budget, assets and debt management comfortably. They should be well-versed enough in personal finance to answer basic questions. And if they don't know the answer, it's OK to say, "I don't know," but the member should never hear "I don't care" in your MSR's voice.
How do you train your MSRs, loan officers and (possibly the most difficult) the people staffing your phone center to understand and empathize with your members' needs? One way is to choose a book, or several books, you find easy to understand and cover all the basics (there are many out there!) and have staffers read them on credit union time. Then, test them to make sure the knowledge was retained.
Next, observe the interactions staffers have throughout their service requests and then discuss ways they could have taken their service to a higher level. For example, was there a missed opportunity to remind a member about auto loan pre-approval vs. dealer financing? And do have the discussion immediately afterward. Don't wait until the interaction is no longer fresh in their minds. With proper coaching, they'll remember your conversation the next time the topic comes up in another interaction.
You may want to do something more formal and send your front-line staffers for training. But at the very least, know how much your front-line staff knows, and see to it that they know enough for your members to feel that when they walk into the credit union, anyone on the other side of the desk is knowledgeable, professional, and has the information to help them make more informed and better financial decisions.
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