April 16, 2014
Exceptional member service is a cornerstone of the credit union industry. And so it gets a lot of focus, resources and attention. External service is measured, and the success or failure of external service may even affect a front-line employee's employment status or bonus.
But what about the critical role of internal service? How does a front-line person provide information to the member without resources from IT, marketing, collections and other areas?
"Credit unions don't necessarily view support areas as service areas. We call them the 'back office,'" said Michael Neill, CSE, during a recent CUES webinar, "The Critical Role of Internal Service in Credit Union Sales & Service Culture." Neill is president of MNA, Consulting Inc., Atlanta, and CUES' strategic provider for ServiStar cues.org/servistar and the Internal Service Survey.
"If you begin to treat people differently, they'll see themselves as different. They'll want to dress differently and act differently," Neill said. "When that happens, we don't have one culture. We have two: the front office and back office." This is something to avoid.
Neill developed the Internal Service Survey to help credit unions measure how they're doing. He explained the survey process to the 99 webinar participants, but a question lingered for one attendee, who asked, "My CU, of course, has an external measure, which is a corporate goal as well. I believe I was told we had an internal equivalent before I came on board and it turned into a nightmare because it was anonymous and was used as a sounding board. Any advice?"
Neill suggested that any internal service survey has to be part of a service philosophy larger than the survey itself. "You must establish service standards and train the staff on how to take the survey," he said. "Train managers on how to get employees to participate and do it appropriately. And how to coach to the survey. If staff believe they can say anything without consequence, they will; and if they see that the results aren’t actually being used, they'll stop doing it."
With context and training, Neill sees success, once credit unions begin measuring internal service. That improvement translates to better member-facing interactions as well.
“A credit union can never out-service itself. Your external service will never be better than your internal service,” he said.
Neill outlined these steps for improving internal service:
- Measure internal service.
- Identify performance gaps.
- Develop an action plan and implement it.
- Train managers to be service coaches.
- Conduct internal service training.
- Continue to measure internal service.
- Benchmark and set goals.
- Recognize staff and hold them accountable for the service they provide each other.
“It all starts with measurement. What gets measured gets done,” said Neill. "Credit unions measure everything! When we talk about what we measure, and the fact that we don't measure internal service, it creates a juxtaposition. We track external service through mystery shoppers, balancing at the drive-through, etc. What we don't measure is internal service. It creates a compelling case that we need standards for internal service."