Member Onboarding

happy couple on date
Bryn C. Conway, MBA, CUDE Photo
BC Consulting LLC

12 minutes

Be more than a good first date.

Acquiring a new member is no easy feat. You spend precious resources trying to convey the value of your credit union to potential members and when they agree to join, you are elated!

You dream about all the products and services they’ll buy and how you’ll increase their share of wallet. You are certain that this new member is going to love you for life and that you will be their financial soul mate.

But wait, it usually doesn’t work out that way. Members join and you can’t seem to get beyond the basics. They become members for a car loan or a checking account and, regardless of the offers you put in front of them, you can’t get past that first product or service.

Start thinking about member onboarding like you would think about dating. You need to get to know your member; they need to get to know you; and then you need to jointly decide that you can build a foundation for a lasting relationship. When a new member joins your organization, remember, they have simply agreed to a first date.

You may have heard someone say “I am a really good first date!” But they rarely have a second or third date and a satisfying relationship has yet to materialize. The goal of the first date is to get the second date, so how is it they get stuck at being a good first date? Simply put, they really aren’t a good first date. If they were, they’d have a second, third and several more dates.

This is true with credit unions and new members, too. Is your credit union a good date? Are you onboarding members to trust you and want to commit to a long-term relationship? Chances are your credit union could improve its dating skills. 

Become a Financial Life Mate: The Do’s and Don’ts

The ultimate goal in dating and onboarding is to make a connection and form a mutually satisfying relationship. Here is a quick list of the do’s and don’ts to be a great date and keep you traveling down the relationship road.

DON’T: Wing It

A good date is someone who takes a couple minutes and makes a reservation for dinner and checks the time of the movie. Winging it or just assuming it will all work out sends the message to your date that you didn’t care enough about them to plan ahead. It’s the same with your new members. The member said yes to joining your credit union. Take the time to make a plan for the first date and for the first 90 days of the relationship.

DO: Set Goals

The goal of any first date should be to get the second date. The same is true for member onboarding. If you are going to go through all the time and effort to get a member to join your credit union, don’t let member onboarding be an afterthought. If you do, you’ll be an afterthought for your members’ lifetime of financial decisions.

Set goals for each touchpoint in your member onboarding process and measure every step of the way. Make onboarding part of your monthly performance numbers just as you’d track loans and deposits to goals. Create a line in your dashboards to ensure everyone in your CU understands how important engaged new members are to your organization’s health.

Make onboarding everyone’s job. Calls can be made by your branches or call center as part of the onboarding program. Have employees review the account’s history before launching into the member interaction. For example, if a member opened a checking account with direct deposit in the last month, thank them for the business and ask if they are interested in downloading the mobile app. Make onboarding goals part of everyone’s job to ensure you keep building the relationship.

DON’T: Interview

Just as you are likely to send a date running for the nearest exit if you do nothing but grill them with questions on the first date, the same is true with your new members. Don’t ask a first date if they want kids and don’t try to sell your new members every product you have. It’s just too much, too fast. Instead, have a nice conversation. Ask questions to help and build rapport. Set the tone for future communications by starting soft and getting to know each other.

DO: Court and Pursue

Your new member said yes to the first date, and since you asked them to join it’s absolutely your job to pursue them, court them and make them feel special. So, hold the door, pay the check and make the first move. Let them know you are interested and have them leave the first interaction with you feeling wanted, valued and thinking you are a great catch! 

To do this, put a new member communication plan in place that includes a variety of touchpoints and that can be altered as needed. For example, if your new member has not answered the phone for the first two calls, then you should be flexible enough in your process to adjust and send that message via email.

Communicate with new members within the first few days after meeting. Call and say thank you for joining and ask how you can help. Personally invite them to a special event you are having. Send an email to make sure they were able to login to online banking. Then, keep up with it. Court and pursue! A little personal attention goes a long way to building the foundation of trust that is essential to a good relationship.

DON’T: Overpromise

There is nothing worse than showing up to a restaurant looking for your date, only to find the picture you saw online was clearly taken 15 years ago. This deception sets you up for failure. You are who you are, and if you can’t be proud of that, it just conveys to your date you aren’t confident in your own value. The same thing applies to your new members. Be transparent and authentic.

DO: Be Yourself

Your CU has a unique history and personality. Invite your new members to learn your story and help you write the next volume as they become part of your CU family. Help them understand who your CU is, what you believe and who you aspire to be.

Chemistry in relationships happens because couples find commonalities in their beliefs. Your onboarding plan starts from the very first interaction whether in your branches, at community events or online. It continues with every touchpoint that shapes your new members’ experience. Share your core purpose, mission, vision and values at every turn. Don’t be afraid to pull a product offering out of the new member onboarding sequence to, instead, send a note outlining your commitment to the community or your passion for financial education.

Onboarding is all about new members feeling they belong with you and that they are part of something greater than just a checking account or a car loan. Be yourself and constantly communicate what makes you different to your new members and long-time members alike.

DON’T: Email or Text Too Much

Sure, email and text can be fun and quick ways to communicate with your date. However, it’s very hard to read the tone, nuances or intent from an email or text message. It’s also difficult to get to know someone you have never met in person. You probably wouldn’t consider it a serious relationship if you’d only exchanged emails or texts with someone. Don’t rely on one type of communication with your members at the beginning of your relationship.

DO: Communicate Often and in a Variety of Ways

There is no replacement for personal interaction. Credit union members want to be communicated with in a variety of ways and they want different communication channels to be used depending on the type of business they are going to conduct.

When asked how they want to transact with their credit union, members often say they are fine using technology-based interactions that do not require an employee to help. Transferring money, getting cash, depositing a check, paying bills­—members are fine with all these transactions being completed using convenience services.

However, when asked how members would prefer to obtain their next product or service, such as a credit card or mortgage, the overwhelming response is that members want to do this face to face in a branch or over the phone. Members want to ask questions, have a conversation and relate to the person who is helping them make a major financial decision. This is true regardless of age, income level or length of membership.

Add variety to your communication channels and content in your member onboarding plan. Call, send written notes, email and invite members to come in and sit down with you, or make an appointment to go to them. Ask them how they prefer to be contacted and honor their requests. Communicate in a variety of ways and do it often. Make personal connections with members and continue to foster that connection throughout your relationship.

Members Forever: Keep the Home Fires Burning

In the book, 41: A Portrait of My Father, by President George W. Bush, he asks his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, what it takes to make a great and successful marriage. Her answer is simple, “We both went three-quarters of the way.”

Often you’re told that the sign of a good relationship is the willingness to meet in the middle. However, that’s not enough. Meeting someone half way means you have not joined together. Being willing to go three-quarters of the way means you’re willing to go beyond your half of the relationship and join together. In turn, hopefully they will do the same.

It is a sound piece of advice that applies to a lasting and successful relationship you can have with your members. Below are some do’s and don’ts of keeping your member relationships for a lifetime:

DON’T: Take Members for Granted

Just because they love you and have been a member for years doesn’t mean they don’t need attention, appreciation and a sincere conversation about how you can best meet their needs. Relationships fall apart because partners don’t feel heard, needed and appreciated. The only way to ensure that members don’t feel taken for granted is to ask them how you can help.

DO: Survey Your Members

If you’d like to see your members have a more extensive relationship with you, ask what you are doing well, what you need to improve on, and specifically how you can help them.

Do this in a multi-faceted way. Conduct an annual member survey. This ensures that each year you are making contact with a random sample of your entire membership and gives you the benchmark for how your service levels, member satisfaction and loyalty are trending. Depending on the vendor you select, it can also provide a comparison to how CUs of similar size are performing.

To get immediate feedback, also ask members how their experience was when they called you on the phone or interacted in a branch. Send an email to members who took out a loan or opened a certificate with you and ask about the process. If it wasn’t good, follow up and find out how to make it better. 

Members, just like anyone in a relationship, like to be asked about their thoughts, feelings and opinions, but when you are doing the asking, remember to thank them for all they do and remind them how much you value them.

DON’T: Assume Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

My parents have faithfully been CU members since before I was born and have been members of a CU in the state they grew up in even though they have lived in another state for the last 20 years. However, recently my parents revealed that they had closed their account at this CU they had been members of for nearly 40 years.

I was stunned and asked if it was because it was no longer convenient. Their answer was “No, it had all the technology we needed. We just felt like they didn’t know us and we didn’t know them anymore.” So even though my parents still read the local paper online every week to stay connected to the community, the long-distance relationship with their CU came to an end because the connection had not been maintained.

DO: Remember What Made You Fall in Love in the First Place

All that was needed to save the relationship for my parents and their CU was some personal conversations. Their needs have changed but they are still buying cars, using credit cards and paying bills from a checking account with direct deposit. Another CU is enjoying a financial relationship with them.

Relationships last because people stay in touch, they reach out, and they send an email, a card or a note.

Re-onboard your members just like you onboarded them. Reach out to say “hi,” tell them you had a wonderful time with them and ask them when you can see them again. Send an email and ask how you can help. Follow up with a personal message in online banking. Keep them involved in the spirit, the values and the personal connection they feel for your credit union.

Forming and fostering a mutually satisfying relationship takes strategy and the willingness to constantly communicate. This applies to your new members and those who have been with you for a lifetime. Develop a touchpoint plan, make it a business priority, set goals to measure how you are doing and make changes as needed. This is how to achieve once a member, always a member, and keep your member relationships alive.

Bryn C. Conway, CUDE, principal of BC Consulting, LLC, based in the Washington D.C., area, is a lover of all things CU and helps CUs define their brands, develop their leaders and grow their market share.

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