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Exceptional, Memorable Service Must Go Beyond a Smile, CU Manager Says
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 7:00 AM

Greeting a member with a smile when they enter the credit union branch is good manners, but Cooperative Ext. Service FCU Manager Kim Wiedower says exceptional, memorable service requires more than a smile.

“Members want to know that they are more than a savings account holder or a borrower,” she says. “They want to know that you care and that you are responsive to their needs. They want and expect a positive experience every time they have an interaction with their credit union.”

Cooperative Ext. Service FCU is based in Little Rock, Ark. There are only two employees and that includes Wiedower. The credit union serves just over 1,300 members.

“Being small does have its advantages. We know all of our members and our members know us,” she says.

Regardless of your size, providing exceptional, memorable service is essential to retaining current members and recruiting new ones. Wiedower shares her thoughts on member service with Leaguer readers in the following Q&A:

Question: How do you define exceptional member service?

Wiedower: Everyone wants to be greeted with a smile, but a smile doesn’t make up for poor service or a bad experience. I would define exceptional member service as going above and beyond for our members. It’s having a conversation with a member. Getting to know who they are, so that I know which products and services are best suited for them.  

I’ve built such strong relationships with our members that they feel comfortable to reach out to me for help and advice. I recall an elderly member calling me recently because she was going to be spending the summer with her daughter who lived out of town. This member was worried because she wasn’t able to get to the credit union to transfer money from her savings account at the credit union to a checking account she has at another financial institution. I was able to take care of that for her, and she was very appreciative.

Question: Why is providing exceptional member service so important?

Wiedower: We are a service-oriented business. If a member has a bad experience, we might not only lose their business, but they may share their bad experience with others, and we could lose more members, or have difficulty gaining new ones. On the other hand, if we provide exceptional, memorable service, our satisfied members could become champions of our cause and help us recruit other members.

Question: Anything special you do to connect with members?

Wiedower: We hold regular onsite meetings with our SEG groups. At these informational meetings, we are able to strengthen relationships with existing members and recruit new ones. 

Question: What characteristics lead to exceptional member service?

Wiedower: A strong desire to help others; understanding; respect, and the ability to really listen to the member.

Question: What are some additional insights about member service?

Wiedower: Don’t try and sell members on a service they don’t need or get them in loan they can’t afford - that’s not helping them. I would rather discourage a member from borrowing money if it’s going to cause them a financial hardship.

I had a member once that wanted to buy a second car. She was young, single, and on the road a great deal for work. She wanted to have one car for work and the other car for personal use. The company would reimburse her for work-related gas mileage, but not for car payments, which meant she would be responsible for two car payments. I could have just approved the loan for the second car; however, before doing so I wanted to ensure she was making an informed decision. I explained to her that in addition to a second car payment she would have to pay insurance, inspection fees and registration fees on two vehicles, as well as keep up with maintenance on both vehicles. The decision was hers to make, but because I valued her trust and loyalty to the credit union, I wanted to make sure he had all the facts.