Service, service, service. Ask any credit union or community bank in the country what differentiates themselves in the market and typically that is what you’ll hear: service. But let’s get real. If everyone says they are competing on service, then in reality that doesn’t make you different.

When it comes to financial services, consumers typically move through the following cycle:

Transaction >>> Service >>> Advice

In other words, many people just come to your credit union or bank to do a transaction: cash the check, make a deposit or get some cash. (Of course, if it’s in my mom’s case she might come by just to get your free cup of coffee). Most people view “banking” as a chore. Something they have to do along the lines of picking up their dry cleaning. According to a recent study from Accenture, 80% of account holders say their banking relationship is transactional.

If your members or customers are coming to you simply for transactions, you lose.

Most financial institutions recognized that being order takes (just doing transactions) was not enough. So they embarked upon a service model. Or in some cases a sales and service model. We preached things like “go the extra mile,” “do what is in the consumers’ best interest,” “smile, greet, shake their hand,” and “build relationships.” But as noted in the first paragraph, that’s what every credit union and community bank is doing.

Service as a model is not necessarily dead. But it certainly isn’t different. Not only that, service is not enough anymore. More than likely, the service you are providing right now is just the basics that people expect.

The best way to increase products per household and improve your sales efforts is to move to an advice-based model. With this approach your staff becomes more proactive and your consumers come to you because they know you have the financial answers they are seeking.

As Rob Frankel says in The Revenge of Brand X, “branding is not about getting your targets to choose you over the competition. Branding is about getting your prospects to see you as the only solution to their problem.” In other words, when your members or customers have a financial problem, they should think of your financial institution as the place to come to solve it.

Having an advice-based model is much, much deeper.

So how do you move from being service-based to advice-focused? Here are a few tips:

  • Ensure your staff is trained on all your products
  • Invest in engagement training and not just service training
  • Use a content marketing strategy approach (educate consumers rather than pitching products)
  • Position yourselves as experts in financial services (people buy from experts)
  • Demonstrate how you are saving consumers money with your products

Having an advice-based approach doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. But investing in a strategy that positions your credit union or community bank as THE place to go for financial advice yields huge dividends for you and your consumers.