Service Differentiation Formula

Service Differentiation Formula

C2 x M = Success


In a recent blog post (Top Five Myths You Hear Credit Unions Say), I noted that one marketing myth is that “we compete on service.” After all, who says they don’t compete on service? If you are trying to differentiate your credit union on service then you have a huge challenge before you. Not impossible, but huge. You must treat service honestly instead of giving it lip service.

Here’s a formula that can help make sure service differentiation is achieved and not just discussed:

C2 x M = Success

Let’s examine what the formula means:

(1)    Consistency

One of the biggest challenges with service is consistency. One branch might provide over the top service while another just mediocre. Of course, service is not just a branch issue—it involves all delivery channels (website, phone center, etc.). If your credit union is truly competing on service then your employees will provide exceptional service. All your employees. All the time.

That is the standard you must set. You cannot compromise at the department level or the employee level. Your service standards are only as strong as your weakest link. Think of your department or employee that is the weakest in service or selling. Then that is true standard. So now, how is your consistency?

(2)    Coaching

If you are truly in a vibrant sales culture then you will have coaches that reinforce it daily. A typical sales training plan is “coach, train, coach.” You coach your employees that they can sell, you train them with specific skills they’ll need (asking for the business, closing the deal, etc.), then you coach them on how well they’re doing. Notice it’s two parts coaching and one part training.

Giving your employees the proper training is only the beginning of implementing a sales culture. You cannot have success unless your managers are regularly coaching your employees. Make sure you are not overloading your managers with so many operational tasks that they don’t have time to develop their employees. If your credit union is struggling with getting your employees to cross-sell the problem could be a coaching issue. Make sure you are properly developing your coaches.

(3)    Measurement

How do you know if your sales culture is truly working? Of course the bottom line numbers tell the ultimate story: things like products per household, number of accounts opened, etc. While those long term numbers are worth analyzing, you must also have measurements in place that track how your employees are doing with service-selling skills at the transactional level.

Measurement techniques could include mystery shops, member surveys, employee observations, etc. While there are pros and cons with each of those methods, the key is to use one. If you are not measuring how your employees are doing with selling (while doing their transactions), then you are not really in a sales culture. While there is such a thing as “transactional coaching” there is also “transactional measurement.”

So how do you know if you’re really in a sales culture? If your member touch points are consistent, if your managers are coaching and if you are measuring employee-member transactions then you have the formula for successful sales culture.

What do you think? Is there anything else you would add to the formula?

10 Marketing Tasks To Consider in 2010

10 Marketing Tasks To Consider in 2010

It seems like 2010 started with everyone wearing their running shoes, especially those in the credit union marketing field. You probably already have a task list a mile long of things you want to accomplish this year. But are they the right tasks?

Some of the items listed below are strategic (because marketing is such a strategic priority) while others are tactical and practical in nature. Please feel free to let contribute your own ideas as well!Task list

(1)    Devote staff time to social media efforts

Everyone knows your marketing efforts need to focus more on social media (blogs, Twitter, etc.). But that’s not the point of this task (that was on last year’s “To Do” list). For this year, the key is devoting enough manpower resources to your social media efforts. You can’t add “reach our members through social media” without properly devoting at least 10 to 20 hours per week to make it work. Don’t have the time—then outsource it.

(2)    Blow up your yearly marketing calendar and focus on a six month cycle

Things are changing too rapidly in today’s economy. Our society is moving at a breathtaking pace. Since we don’t know what the economy (or consumer issues) will take precedent towards the end of the year then move your marketing calendar to a six month cycle. Doing so allows you more flexibility—a must in 2010.

(3)    Take advantage of positive credit union press

Every day, more newspapers and news programs talk about credit unions. When a positive article about credit unions runs, highlight that on your website (or link to the online article). Dovetail wherever possible to maximize press exposure.

(4)    Focus on women

Women bring in half or more of the household income in the majority of U.S. households and they carry 76 million credit cars (8 million more than men). Strategically, credit unions should treat women as an ideal target market. This might require a long term focus, but keep in mind that women are a powerful economic force.

(5)    Take advantage of the economy with cheaper and new opportunities

The economy has negatively impacted many events and corporate sponsorships. Many are scrambling to find new partners. Now is a great time for credit unions to take advantage of areas in which their competitors use to have exclusive rights.

(6)    Brand your value

Everyone knows the importance of branding (something you should continue to do). Today’s consumer is all about value. Home budgets are tight and every penny counts. With that as the case, then demonstrate in your marketing materials that your credit union is the best value when it comes to banking.

(7)    Follow the REI membership and experience examples

REI is more than an outdoor recreational company—much more. REI is a co-operative and you can be a member of REI. Sound like anything else you might know? REI provides discounts to their members and heavily promotes the value their membership brings. Their stores are also extremely experiential, with rock climbing walls and paddles for doors. Credit unions could learn a great deal emulating REI’s example.

(8)    Promote a differentiating product

Is there a product you offer that no one else in your area does? We’re not the “end all, be all” when it comes to marketing at Neighborhood Credit Union. But for the past couple of years we’ve used our Prize Savings account to differentiate ourselves in the market place. For more information about our Prize Savings account, click here.

(9)    Make credit union products convenient

Marketers aren’t the only ones racing these days—all consumers are. You must make your credit union convenient or your members simply won’t use you. What convenience products (text alerts, online chat, etc.) are you introducing to your members this year?

(10)Promote opt-in agreement

The regulatory changes credit unions are facing with new opt-in agreements could significantly impact your income. Don’t wait until mid-year to start getting your members to opt-in to keeping their overdraft privileges the same.

2010 is going to be a great year for credit unions, especially those that complete the above tasks. But those are just a few suggestions. What other tasks do you think credit union executives should add to 2010?

Creating Mystery For Your Employees

Creating Mystery For Your Employees

A recent report from The Conference Board noted that “Americans of all ages and income brackets continue to grow increasingly unhappy at work.” The survey showed that only 45 percent of employees are satisfied with their jobs.Smiley employee

Think about that for a minute. Only 45 percent of the people working for you like their job. Ouch!

Gallup Research also indicates that employees are not only dissatisfied with their work, they also are not engaged. Gallup reported that only 26% of employees are actively engaged with their job. Again, that means that only one out of every four of your employees is dialed into what you’re trying to accomplish.

So how do you improve those numbers where you work? Instead of looking at our employees and pointing fingers (“Why don’t you guys love it here?”) we should engage our employees ourselves.

One of the best ways I’ve found to do that is to create mystery for your employees. What do I mean by that? Provide some elements of surprise at the office. Keep them guessing so they never know what you’re going to do next.

Here’s an example. Each year I do a beginning of the year motivational exercise for my employees. I devise a theme, write them a letter encouraging and challenging them, and get them focused. Instead of just coming in and giving the theme I leave surprise clues for them.

I’ve done things like:

  • Put a giant box on their desk (they eventually learned the theme was “think huge”)
  • E-mailed them motivational clips (my favorite was this Derek Redmond clip) (they eventually learned the theme was to “never give up”)
  • Placed old running shoes in their offices (they eventually learned the theme was to “crawl, walk, run.”)

This year I’ve given them six clues:

  • Sunglasses
  • Quotes “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” (Walter Winchell); “The people who influence you are the people who believe in you.” (Henry Drummond)
  • A picture from the movie Twilight
  • A toy watch
  • A running video clip (
  • A doll-sized book

We’ll see if they get it. Each clue represents one word. Do you want to play along? Feel free to post your answers in a comment below or e-mail me what you think each word means. I can’t give you a prize (although everyone who works for me that gets all six words exactly right does get a ½ day off).

Creating mystery and giving clues engages your employees. It demonstrates you care about them and want them engaged in their jobs. How can we expect our employees to be engaged with us if we’re not engaged with them?

If your employees are unmotivated and disinterested maybe you should start engaging them by creating mystery in the workplace.

It’s A Wonderful Life: The Credit Union Story

It’s A Wonderful Life: The Credit Union Story

I love the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. You probably saw this popular holiday classic several times on TV last month. I like it because it reminds me so much about the importance of credit unions and how we all need to do a better job telling our stories. (Yes, I do bleed credit unions).


The main character of the movie is George Bailey – a man who constantly sacrifices his own dreams for the benefit of the community. When his father dies, he finds himself in charge of the family business – Bailey Building & Loan – an organization which loans money and helps people build affordable housing in town. It is the only business in town not owned by the movie’s evil nemesis Old Man Potter, a banker who sees people as dollars signs instead of human beings. Instead of doing a better job serving customers, Potter spends the entire movie trying to plot against the building and loan to make a bigger profit. Sound familiar? This is one of my favorite scenes in the movie, because it reiterates the importance of financial alternatives, especially during a recession:





There’s another equally important scene in the movie in which Potter causes a run on the Building and Loan as George and his new bride are on their way out of town for their honeymoon. George and his wife use their honeymoon money to provide temporary loans to customers while educating them on the importance of keeping their money where it is:





This is what we do as credit unions every day. We are our members’ financial partners. We help them fulfill their dreams. We take chances on people who need a break. We help our members when they need us most. So why aren’t we telling them these things?


In the midst of a recession, when so many financial institutions are tightening their belts to clean up the economic mess they’ve caused, credit unions continue to be part of the solution. We have money to lend. We want to help people. We have helped people, and we should be shouting it from the roof tops.


That’s what a credit union in Roanoke, Virginia did. Last year, when banks were going out of business at lightening speed, Member One Credit Union launched this billboard:




The campaign generated millions just in the first month and differentiated this credit union from everyone.


Don’t have money for a billboard? Put member testimonials on your website and marketing collateral. Ask members to write something positive about you on their Facebook pages. See if they’ll write a letter to the editor of the local paper about you. Arrange for an article to be written about a member whose home you saved from foreclosure by another financial institution. Offer free financial literacy sessions and publicize them at public venues to draw non-members, too.


Almost anything that helps consumers in a bad economy will serve as a reminder that there are still George Bailey’s in the world who are ready to help the little guy. And because we work in the credit union movement, it is a wonderful life.