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Relevance from the Outside-In
Thursday, January 26, 2017 6:45 AM

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

Jeff RendelOne of the more valuable questions for executives and directors as your credit union continues along its path of strategic thinking and planning is, “What’s my/our vision for our credit union’s members?”

Of the answers that have come across my desk, few have focused on a measure, such as reaching a certain asset size to provide more services. Most replies involve continued relevance in members’ lives. That's understandable since, if relevance is absent, it’s challenging to grow to that certain asset size to provide more services.

See Jeff Rendel live on stage at Cornerstone's 2017 Annual Meeting

But developing a kind of far-sighted view is a dependable and useful display of leadership for your members. It seldom involves a middle-of-the-night “a-ha” moment; most often, it’s built from daily insights you can use to generate and reinforce strategies that uphold your vision.

Below are five outside-in ways that five credit union leaders recognize and discover how their credit unions might adjust to remain relevant for members.

  1. Learn and increase your primary FI status. Understanding where your members keep most of their business is important, given the full range of existing providers (some are not even depository institutions). Published in 2015, The Wallet Allocation Rule discusses how wallet share is a primary driver of satisfaction and loyalty (the authors show it's even more effective than the Net Promoter Score). We also learn that members who don’t indicate your credit union as their primary financial institution (PFI) offer valuable insights as to why they bank elsewhere (spoiler alert: technology, ATMs, and branches). Who are your PFI members? Why do they remain loyal? Which members don’t consider your credit union their PFI? Why are they so loyal to another institution?
  2. Make everything easy. Several years ago, the Harvard Business Review ran an article discussing the “Customer Effort Score.” In short, it described that the easier a business is to transact with, the more likely consumers will buy again. Look over every process and touch point at your credit union. Where could you make it easier for your members? What steps could be shortened or eliminated? How might you simplify and streamline member access? Where could your members experience frustration and discontinue a process? Making member interactions easier and more user-friendly could be a driver of increased PFI status.
  3. Hold focus groups. Your formats may vary—a cross-section of all members, a target demographic, an ongoing group, and more. What’s important is to hear their thoughts on products, services, and experiences, now and for the future. Even more important is to listen and act where themes reveal areas for improvement, innovation, and beneficial solutions. Chances are your focus group members will describe positive experiences and new levels of expectations that they receive outside of your credit union, even outside of financial services. Are there consumer experiences they appreciate elsewhere that may have a unique application at your credit union?
  4. Look outside of financial services. Get outside your credit union and learn how other retail-focused businesses are serving and selling to consumers. Your members’ expectations don’t change when they leave one retail store and enter your credit union; the expectations are just as high. What are your members experiencing in their other consumer lives (design, marketing, service, technology, etc.)? How can your credit union remain relevant to their experiences and expectations in the general marketplace?
  5. Network outside of credit unions. It’s easy to pick up the phone and call a credit union friend to bounce an idea around. You should do this regularly; it’s a valuable and casual way to refine your strategies, and perspectives from other executives can give you new insights into successful marketing, operations, sales, and more. Your friends from the Chamber of Commerce, CEO groups like Vistage, and local business leader luncheons can provide principles learned from their successes and allow you to find applications for your credit union. You could even ask their outside perspective on financial services as it relates to their worldview on sales, service, and experience. Unbiased viewpoints can be very valuable.

When your members win, your credit union wins. The more you know about the next level of success for your members, the more relevant your credit union will be in their lives. Consider these practical ways from your peers to better understand changing dynamics that affect how your members go about their financial services matters. 

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in leadership, sales, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners. Contact:;; 951-340-3770

To learn about a culture of service excellence or to see Jeff Rendel live on stage, be sure you join us at the Cornerstone Credit Union League Annual Meeting in Fort Worth, April 11-13. To register for the conference, please visit