The Member Experience Matters

by Marci Francisco
The Member Experience Matters

As marketers, we are focused on our credit union’s brand.  In fact, we’re probably obsessed with it.  We lean on it in meetings with the team and ideation sessions.  We have guidelines and standards.  But what is a brand?

The traditional definition was easy to quantify.  According to the AMA*, a brand is “a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from that of other sellers.”  We were able to define our brand, our identity and what we stood for, and then push that brand out to the member base and the community through our marketing efforts.

Today, that control lies in the members’ hands.

Every day, members interact with the credit union.  They walk into the branch or go online, have experiences and then translate those experiences into the digital space.  Whether it’s via a testimonial, a referral or a check in on Yelp, one interaction multiplies and influences many.  That one-to-one experience may have the power to redefine the brand.  Today, a brand is the sum of your members’ experiences – their emotional connection to the credit union and the expectations those connections create.  Logos, symbols or features are now vehicles to capture the essence of that brand and that emotion.

The member experience matters, more than ever before.  Your credit union’s brand needs to drive every experience and personal interaction that your team delivers or creates.  So how effectively are you connecting your brand strategy to the member experience today?  Are you able to understand and predict your members’ emotions?   And, how are your branches and website nurturing positive emotions about the credit union?

Since brand is centered on emotion, looking at your people is a great starting point for your audit.  Every member-facing staff member has the power to positively impact your future success through providing a brand-centric consumer experience.    Here are a few key items to consider when you look to leverage people power:

Shift from product training to “passion training.”

Understanding the features and benefits of any product the credit union offers is merely the starting point.  How intense is your training on the passion and personality of your brand?  Does that training end with the new hire class, or does it extend throughout the year?  Creating a passion culture is an ongoing challenge, and without constant attention, it may degrade.  Also, how clearly are your credit union’s corporate values translated into the verbiage you use, not only in your marketing but also in your branch?  Beyond your product, do they sell your story?  Using brand language both internally and externally to cultivate positive impressions and creating passionate advocates is the first step to ensuring consistently great experiences.

Focus on the first touch.

If this phone call / visit to the branch / ad online was the first time that you ever interacted with your brand, would you want to do so again?  If that first “hello” isn’t warm or inviting, if that ad isn’t dynamic or interesting, why should your member care?  So, put your team (and yourself) in the member’s shoes.  Have your staff mystery shop another branch, go onto your website or call in to the call center, and then rate their experience.  They should be able to articulate what’s working well, and what might need to be tightened up or refined.  Your team can, and should, play an active role in coming up with solutions for member experience problems, which leads to ownership and engagement with a member-centric brand promise.

Look at your “extended family.”

Beyond engaging your staff with your brand, it’s critical to look at all of the business partners or vendors that you work with.  You likely have multiple partners that service different areas of your marketing efforts, whether digital or physical.  How effectively are your vendors representing your brand?  Are they serving every credit union in your local market?  If so, what efforts are they taking to focus on your brand and your needs?  Is their solution customizable and white label, or are they promoting a brand other than your own?  Do they offer flexibility, access and control on the solutions they provide?  How well do they tailor their program and their interactions to align with the expectations of your team and your members?  Business partners are valuable allies in promoting the credit union, yet can negatively impact your brand if expectations are not aligned.  And remember to walk the path of the member on their sites or through their call centers as well to see how effectively they represent you.

Defining your brand upfront seems straightforward, but maintaining it in today’s connected society can be difficult.  Keeping a laser focus on the member experience through every touch point, whether physical, digital or personal, will help increase success and deepen relationships in the moments that matter.

*American Marketing Association

About the Author

Marci Francisco
Marci Francisco is the Vice President, Automotive Marketing & Business Development, for CU Direct