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We Have to Ask Because Every Membership Base Is Different
Monday, October 2, 2017 6:35 AM

David England, Senior Research Analyst, Cornerstone Credit Union League

Because every member is different, and every membership base is different, it is not wise to develop cookie-cutter approaches to meeting the financial needs of your members. So, you don’t, right? Instead, you ask them: What are your needs? What do you prefer? Right?

The marketing of financial services is changing. Not so long ago, transactions with the bank were largely completed at the bank, face to face. Then, things began to change:

  • Call centers
  • Online banking
  • Price comparison sites
  • Mobile apps
  • Digital wallets
  • Robo-advice
  • Live chat

A basic marketing perspective argues that even through all of the disruptions, there are “functional needs” and “emotional needs” that must be met. Doing so will create members who will be loyal to your credit union.

Functional needs include attributes such as speed of service, accuracy, a website that is easy to use, fast responses to loan applications, friendliness, and competence. Emotional needs involve a bonding between members and their credit unions and are reflected in these two questions: “How close do I feel toward my credit union?” and “How much do I trust my credit union?” Emotional bonding is nurtured through proactive customer service, exceptional issues management, going out of your way to help, and delivering on promises quickly and conveniently.

Credit unions must navigate through the changes and pinpoint members’ specific needs and wants. Meanwhile, digital changes will continue, and human interactions at the credit union will decline. But, which ones? How fast will they decline?

In 2010, 66 percent of credit unions offered banking via the Internet, while just below 10 percent offered mobile banking. In 2016, 76 percent offered Internet banking, and 52 percent had begun using mobile. Yet, even with the growing popularity of banking apps, it is too soon to call for the death of brick-and-mortar branches. In a 2017 survey of mobile bank app users, 81 percent had visited a branch of their primary institution within the month prior to taking the survey. This is down from 83 percent in the 2016 survey.

The point is, every credit union base is different, and to get it right, you have to ask your members:

  • What they want.
  • When they want it.
  • How they want it.

To illustrate, in the 2017 survey mentioned above, banking app users told us which features they use most:

  • Check balance, 85 percent
  • Review transactions, 67 percent
  • Transfer money between accounts, 58 percent
  • Pay bills, 52 percent
  • Photo check deposit, 42 percent
  • Balance or fraud alerts, 33 percent
  • Access other account information, 30 percent
  • Send money to another person, 26 percent

These are common features used across many institutions. But, what about your members? You have limited resources, and you want to spend them wisely. Where are your members in their journey to find the right financial institution for their family for their current and future financial needs? How is their experience with you? Which features are they using now? Which ones will they be using a year from now? Are you over-prepared, under-prepared, or in sync with your members?

The only way to know the answers to these questions is to ask members. Focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and member surveys can deliver solutions specifically for your credit union. 

The day of the cookie-cutter approach is definitely past.