Adapting Member Outreach Strategies for Continued COVID-19 Impacts

yellow and green hand reach out
By Lisa Knoche

4 minutes

What matters most is not what you do or say, but how you make members feel.

No two credit union members will experience the economic impact of COVID-19 in exactly the same way. That’s why it’s so important for credit unions to adhere to the principles of segmentation and personalization when planning their approach to pandemic outreach. 

In addition to strategizing around individual members, credit unions must also think about the moment. As we travel through the various stages of COVID-19 (from reaction to recovery and, eventually, transformation), member needs will inevitably evolve. Two-way communication enriched by data insights will be critical for credit unions to provide the right outreach to the right members at the right time. 

Regardless of your credit union’s current level of analytics maturity, there are basic tenets of business intelligence you can tap into right now for relevant, meaningful assistance to members. Here are just a few ideas:

Leverage First-Party Data 

The credit union industry is a tapestry of wildly divergent financial cooperatives. Every organization has a uniqueness underpinning everything from culture to structure. This distinctiveness from credit union to credit union means the member data you hold within your own systems is rich and full of intelligence potential. While it’s true that intelligence can be made richer through the integration of third-party data, doing so is not a prerequisite to providing relevant and targeted assistance to your members. 

Use the data you already have to identify the members who most likely need to hear from you first. Look at things like direct deposit histories to quickly identify those members who have experienced a radical or sudden drop off in income. Check out employer groups to find members who work for organizations in particularly hard-hit industries. Even age or race/ethnicity can point you in the right direction, as we know there are populations that have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus and its economic effects. 

Customize Recovery Plans 

Design distinct recovery plans based on a number of persona segments. That number will depend on the human and analytics resources you have at your disposal. Credit unions with larger relationship or outbound calling teams can tackle many more segments than those with smaller staffs. You may choose to segment by employment status, debt-to-income ratio or products (e.g., mortgage, indirect loan, deposit). 

After your segments are built, begin outreach to a small group of members to gauge their level of stress and identify their biggest pain points. Be strategic about which staff members reach out to which credit union members; faster connections are often made when people are speaking with someone who can relate. For example, it might be difficult for a millennial to understand the financial situation of someone nearing retirement. From there, craft a scalable recovery plan that can work across the segment. Make engagement with the plan manageable by rolling out bite-sized goals in phases. Most importantly, check in with different members throughout the process to ensure the plan is working for them. Adjust where necessary. 

Be Transparent

Many financial providers—credit unions and beyond—have created loan modification programs to help consumers cope with personal economic crises related to the pandemic. Some of these programs are friendlier than others in terms of down-the-road consequences. No doubt, your credit union’s member-centric assistance strategies were designed to help, not hurt. However, you still want to be sure members understand the risks, if any, of taking advantage of these programs. There may be members in your credit union who are delinquent for the first time in their lives; information you may consider “the basics” of debt management may be brand new concepts to them. One call from you could prevent a desperate member from visiting a predatory payday lender. 

Prioritize your outreach to first communicate with those members who have already enrolled in your assistance program(s). Your goal with this group is twofold: Primarily, you want to determine whether the assistance helped and to what degree; second, you want to ensure the member fully understands any negative consequences that may pop up if they are not adequately addressed. Of course, your outreach should also provide detailed guidance on how to avoid those outcomes.  

Maya Angelou famously said that people will forget what you said and what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel. This is at the core of the credit union experience. Consumers have greater choice for financial providers today than ever before. The ones that join a credit union do so because they want to be seen and heard—to be an individual who is, at the same time, part of something larger. 

Lean on your compassionate team members and unique member intelligence to deploy human-to-human, yet data-driven, outreach. It’s how you’ll create those experiences members can truly feel and won’t soon forget.

As a client success manager for CUESolutions provider AdvantEdge Analytics, Madison, Wisconsin, Lisa Knoche helps credit unions act on analytics insights to create meaningful member experiences. Her CUNA Mutual Group career began in 1985, and the many roles she has held throughout her tenure have focused on helping credit unions meet their business needs. Lisa has a true passion for credit unions and what they stand for. 

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