June 8, 2012
The challenge of getting the most out of new members is one many credit unions face. Michael Neill, CSE, president of CUES strategic provider Michael Neill & Associates, College Park, Ga., and a CUES Supplier member, discussed the importance of closing business at the initial new member point of sale, during a recent CUES webinar.
“When the member is in front of you and saying yes to being a new member, they are more likely to continue to say yes, and once they leave your presence or once they get off the phone with you, this becomes a much more complicated process,” said Neill.
Employees need to stop working as order takers, he explained. Instead, find new ways to fit members into a new “pattern match.” This pattern match is the minimum product mix needed to create a healthy relationship, where the credit union makes money and the members save money.
A significant source of profit loss is taking on new members, said Neill. They can cost credit unions money if they are not signed up for specific services that create profit. Pushing for the new member pattern match right away can help create that profit.
Neill explained that when member contact staff have a conversation already planned out, new members are more likely to say yes to the products and services being offered. For example, try the phrase, “Ill set that up for you so you can start saving money now.” Asking closed-ended questions wastes time, he added.
A main point Neill makes is to assume the sale. He suggested using open-ended questions and emphasizing the benefits of a specific product or service when talking to members. Knowing that you have a targeted product mix will make it easier for employees to make a sale. If a person does not sign on right away, you then follow up.
“Prepare for the outcome we want, and then when we have to play catch-up, we will,” said Neill.
To play catch-up you need to understand who the member service representative is for each new member. That person takes responsibility for the follow-up process since that staffer already started building a relationship with the new member. With minimum expectations sought within the pattern match, the MSR builds a stronger follow-up process, looking for gaps in the pattern match.
Credit union executives are concerned with the follow-up process, because often it is ineffective. He explained that credit unions often set a certain number of phone calls employees should make per day to be “satisfactory.” Instead, measure the outcome needed to reach an “exceptional” level, he suggested.
“Focus on the accountability and the ownership for the outcome, and then train the employees how to follow up,” said Neill. “Don’t over-focus on the process.”
It is essential for credit unions to understand that measuring the process does not always lead to an expected outcome. As Liz Johnson, member service trainer at $350 million Community Choice Credit Union, with 35,500 members in Johnston, Iowa, commented during the webinar, “Train the process; coach for outcomes!”
Community Choice CU uses “unbanking,” which Johnson described as doing things like “giving free pennies for our gumball machines and engaging members in our branch life.” The CU does this to build fuller relationships with its members and to understand what their needs are.
By tracking the success of achieving new member pattern matches, credit unions are able to figure out what needs improvement. Neill suggested the reason things get done correctly is because, “someone owns it and there is an expectation for what it looks like when it’s going to be done and there’s accountability.”
“Your success rate for the MSR should not be gauged around whether they do the process. It should be gauged around what is the outcome for them. What I’ll do is train them on how to follow up and then I’ll coach them to follow up better,” said Neill.
Lauren Etter is a CUES editorial intern who studies communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wis.