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Written by Cyndie Martini
on February 02, 2017

Every credit union is unique. Many were founded by a small group of people, connected by community, education, career or another commonality.

As credit unions grow, they attract more people and expand to meet new members' needs. It seems intuitive that those needs include things like financial products, services, branches and ATMs. But while these are all important, they aren't as important as your true differentiator: member experience.

Members turn to their credit unions for good customer service. Most credit union executives already know this, but a recent Gallup poll found that credit unions excel at customer engagement where big banks fall short. Despite this, credit unions often miss out on members' major financial decisions.

Banks beat credit unions at conversions

According to the survey of more than 19,000 American adults, many credit union members discuss big financial moves with their credit unions as well as banks. Almost 90 percent of credit union members ask their financial institution about new products, compared to just 61 percent of big bank customers. However, banks have a higher success rate in turning those conversations into sales.

Gallup concluded that credit unions could see a major improvement in conversions if they worked harder to meet member needs and encourage member engagement. Fortunately, there are products and techniques available to help credit unions make this change.

Customer Relationship Management systems are not a new concept. They have been widely accepted among retail, restaurants, hospitality and more industries. Financial institutions have been a bit slower to adopt this technology. Further, many of the institutions that have adopted CRM software have found more disappointment than results, The Financial Brand reported.

However, this doesn't have to be the case. Credit unions can greatly improve their member experience by getting deeper insights into their needs and wants.

How a CRM can help

Even the smallest credit unions can benefit from a CRM system. A key aspect of consistently superb customer service is having every teller, staff member and sales person on the same page. The Credit Union National Association explained that CRMs can collect and organize information like:

  • Birthdays.
  • Anniversaries.
  • Family members.
  • Major life events.

It can also hold less personal information, like when the last time a customer was contacted and how the interaction went, or how valuable a particular member is to the credit union's overall health. All of this information can help various credit union staff to create a consistent experience for the member.

Helping your CRM help you

While CRMs can greatly benefit credit unions and their member relationships, it's important that executives have realistic expectations for the systems. The Financial Brand pointed out that what usually gets in the way of results and instead prompts disappointment is a lack of understanding of how to implement the CRM and how to use it to your institution's advantage.

The first thing to keep in mind is that CRMs are incredibly involved software and can be complicated to understand. Don't expect yourself or your sales team to get the hang of your new CRM right away. In fact, consider focusing on just one aspect of the new system at a time.

If you have more than one branch, don't deploy the CRM at all branches at once. Make one branch the trial branch, where you can work out the kinks in the system first. CUNA pointed out that some credit unions take as long as three years to get a full grasp on their CRM.

A project with a scope the size of implementing a new CRM deserves a leader. It's a big change that will be helpful in the long run, but will likely be met with obstacles right away. Choose someone in your organization to take the lead on this project. This person should be someone from your sales or marketing team - someone who is already great at member relationships.

Next, be sure everyone not only knows how to use the CRM properly, but is actually making a concerted effort to do so. CRMs only work when all member information and interactions is collected. Missing pieces will only hinder the new system's success.

Credit unions are loved by their members for their excellent customer service and the personalized attention they get. However, many financial institutions fall short in some important aspects. Investing in a CRM will help to close those gaps and make you a more proactive financial resource for your members.

 

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