Let Member Experience Be Your Compass

classic round compass on blue background
By Ally Akins

4 minutes

Emphasizing an outstanding MX can help you prioritize the initiatives that will make a difference to your members.

Customer service has become a focal point for all industries. An industry-agnostic study recently found that 86% of buyers are willing to spend more for a great customer experience.

This means that credit unions need to clarify what exactly a good member experience looks like, why an effective member experience is so important and what credit unions need to do to offer one.

Member Experience in Action

Having a good member experience can be defined as:

  1. Having channels that are easy to use and can integrate into a seamless omnichannel experience. Mobile is particularly critical.
  2. Putting the member’s needs first and providing excellent customer service
  3. Establishing strong awareness of your brand reputation among members
  4. Painless and effective onboarding
  5. Ongoing customer communications and engagement

Real-life examples are sometimes the best way to define what “great member experience” really looks like. So let’s consider the paths of two credit unions that are doing this well.

In 2019, $2.5 billion Addition Financial Credit Union in Lake Mary, Florida, was among the first credit unions to enable contactless debit and credit cards. This example of adopting new technology geared at making members’ lives easier and simpler solidified the organization’s commitment to the overall member experience. Now members can simply “tap to pay” at checkout, bolstering security and increasing the speed of transactions.

$27 billion Pentagon Federal Credit Union, based in Tysons, Virginia, prides itself on being member-owned and member-focused. As the pandemic caused everyone to use digital channels for more of their financial needs, PenFed rapidly increased its focus on improving its members’ experience through these channels as well as the contact center. The institution created a cross-functional member experience team to review key member experience metrics regularly. Measurement tactics and metrics include:

  1. Net Promoter Score reporting
  2. Surveys of users on website
  3. Focus groups of members
  4. Focus groups of prospects/non-members
  5. Social listening data reporting
  6. Voice of the customer analysis

PenFed uses NPS as its guidepost for tracking the member experience. Chief Marketing Officer Gaurav Bhatia notes that “no matter what a member may be satisfied or dissatisfied with, it will all feed into our NPS.”

Another way institutions cater to a strong member experience is by proving to their members that they are listening. During the pandemic, as members sought financial security and reached out PenFed for additional financial support, the CU rapidly introduced new personal lending products with competitive rates.

Member Experience Is Vital

With member growth at a six-year low, retaining and growing a credit union’s member base could not be more important. Creating a differentiated, effective member experience is a critical way of pursuing that growth.

Delivering an effective member experience is vital because it can:

  1. Build loyalty, driving increased retention and deeper relationships;
  2. Create a competitive advantage, distinguishing your brand from competitors in a highly saturated digital market;
  3. Generate word of mouth referrals from existing members; and
  4. Reestablish an institution’s commitment to its community and members

Action Steps for Improving the Member Experience

Building a strong member experience can take time, but certain steps can and should be taken regularly to keep your experience strong and valuable to your members.

  1. Structure your member experience team. Can a group of cross-functional leaders form a member experience committee? Should one leader be solely responsible? Many structures can work, but the key is to gain senior management commitment and ensure accountability for improvements.
  2. Define your target members. What are their wants, needs, values? What do they look for in a financial partner? What are the key pain points of their financial experience?
  3. Conduct a “voice of the member” audit. Through social listening, direct interviews, focus groups and surveys, you can get a sense of what your members are thinking and feeling about your institution and its services. Consider establishing an ongoing VOM program to allow for a constant feedback loop and the opportunity to adjust based on member’s needs.
  4. Consider doing a brand awareness assessment with existing members to understand how your brand is perceived.  
  5. Conduct interviews or surveys of front-line staff with an eye toward learning what they hear from members and what key observations they have about what could be done to improve the member experience you offer.
  6. Set quantifiable goals and track results regularly. Obtain agreement on what your institution’s key performance indicators should be. Net Promoter Score? Average time to customer service resolution? Employee satisfaction or engagement survey?

Getting your institution up to speed and competitive with large, digitally focused institutions on member experience shouldn’t create massive work or distract from current priorities. If anything, emphasizing offering an outstanding member experience can help focus your efforts and prioritize initiatives that will really make a difference to your members.

Ally Akins is a senior analyst at CUES Supplier member Capital Performance Group, Washington, D.C., a strategic consulting firm that provides advisory, planning, analytic and project management services to the financial services industry. Find Capital Performance Group on LinkedIn.

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