In the intense battle of competition between financial institutions, credit unions have long held a winning hand: better service. It’s an advantage most credit unions promote, emphasizing their ability to do a far better job than the banks in meeting the needs of individuals. There’s just one problem. It’s not true.
As found in the Finance and Insurance Report 2018 from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), banks are now on par with credit unions for customer satisfaction, with both institutions earning an ACSI score of 81. It’s the first time in ten years that the scores have been equal. But what’s even more chilling is how that came to be. While the customer satisfaction score for banks remained steady year-to-year, it dropped by 1.2% for credit unions. Meaning consumers are losing faith in credit unions, but not in banks.
Now, if that’s got you worried, good! Because you should be. Banks have closed the gap on credit unions and it only looks set to continue. Unless action is taken now to reverse the trend, there will soon be little reason to join a credit union.
What can credit unions do to remain competitive?
The first step is to understand why the gap has closed. And this comes down to the fact that there are many aspects that contribute to customer satisfaction. While credit unions win in some areas, such as in-branch courtesy and helpfulness (do note they lead by only one point), banks outperform credit unions in areas that are increasingly important to today’s consumer, such as quality of mobile apps.
As consumers rely more on digital and less on in-branch visits to complete their banking, interactions outside the branch will make a much bigger contribution to customer satisfaction. Which means credit unions need to create a consistent experience across every channel. An experience that is as good as it is in their branches.
Elevating the cross-channel experience
The key is to look at the brand as a whole, then determine whether the same level of quality is experienced at every touch point. Identify the gaps in the total brand journey, then address them.
Take your website, for example. Your website should be seen as a highly-valued resource; one that positions you as an authority of financial well-being, a pillar of the community, and an advocate of the credit union movement. It’s the perfect vehicle to energize members and non-members. But do visitors enjoy the same level of quality as they do when they engage in person? More specifically, do they come away from your site feeling the same way as someone who has just visited your branch? If not, think about the ways you can easily improve the interaction. Whether it’s more user-friendly navigation, updating content for greater relevancy, or reformatting to a responsive design, sometimes the simplest update can drastically improve the entire experience.
The same goes for your mobile experience. If after using your app members don’t feel the same level of fulfillment as the do once they’ve left the branch, then there is work to be done.
Don’t forget the rest
While improving the digital experience is essential, it’s important to not neglect any of the other channels in the process. A small oversight may be all it takes to disappoint members. One often overlooked area is membership cards. Are your cards presented to new members in a way that makes them feel valued and special? Or are they handed over with very little wow-factor? It is these seemingly small areas that can provide huge opportunities to extend the high service you offer in branch.
And don’t forget to leverage your strengths in inventive ways! If members enjoy the advice your in-branch staff provide, consider running events or seminars that allow members to learn how they can better manage their finances. This gives your credit union the opportunity to further engage in-person – something you know your organization can do well – while providing significant value to the member. It also provides an opportunity to extend your offering, particularly online. Possible avenues include webinars for people who are unable to attend in person or featuring success stories of attendees on your blog.
Act now or forever hold your peace
While these are just a few considerations, the most important take-away is credit unions need to start fighting back with a consistent brand experience. The banks are muscling in on credit unions’ turf, and unless they evolve to meet consumers’ changing needs, credit unions will be left far behind. We’re not ready to let that happen – but the question is, are you?