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Quest for 'Legendary Service'


March 2014 – Vol: 37 No. 3
by Karen Bankston

Los Angeles Firemen's CU visits Zappos and Disneyland to explore new strategies

March 10, 2014

With the aim of matching the level of “legendary service” their core membership provides on the job, executives and directors of Los Angeles Firemen’s Credit Union visited two companies famed for their customer service.

The exploratory missions to Zappos in Las Vegas and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., offered inside views of two organizations with customer bases that are “extremely satisfied by their out-of-the-box methodologies,” says Mike Mastro, president/CEO of $865 million, 30,000-member Los Angeles Firemen’s CU. “Their strategies may not be directly transferable, but the thinking behind them is.”

Among the highlights of those trips are these ideas board members and managers took back to their credit union:

  • Focus on making members “wildly happy,” as many customers of the online shoe retailer Zappos describe themselves.
  • Emphasize to employees that they make the organizational culture. “Zappos creates an annual ‘culture book,’ which we found fascinating,” Mastro says. “Employees contribute ideas and thoughts about the company, what works well and what doesn’t, and then they print the book and hand it out to employees and visitors. It’s a very transparent organization.”
  • Mentor and nurture employees, celebrate their personal achievements as well as their contributions to the organization, and part ways with staff who don’t thrive. “Zappos will pay employees to leave the organization if they’re not a good cultural fit,” he notes. But that doesn’t happen often because the company invests a lot in hiring the right people.
  • Tell your story in a way that is meaningful and personal to employees. That’s one way Disney motivates its own brand of legendary service, Mastro says.
  • Use facts and data to manage the member experience. “You go to Disneyland, and it’s a fun place, a magical experience, but they manage that experience to the nth degree,” he notes. As just one example, because more people turn right than left when they enter the park, the entryways to the right are bigger.
  • Over-manage. This is not about micro-managing but about managers spending more time on the front lines to better understand the member experience and work with their employees to identify needed improvements.


“Culture is huge in both companies,” Mastro adds. “Disney instills that each employee is responsible for its culture. I don’t think credit unions give as much thought to the power of culture in their organizations.”

Back at the home office, Mastro continues to work with the Los Angeles Firemen’s CU Board and management staff to adapt the lessons learned in their legendary service missions. The credit union will be implementing the Net Promoter Score, on which Zappos relies, and studying ways to improve employee training in support of member service. And there will likely be more “quests” to examine exemplary service models—including trips to other credit unions known for their own brand of legendary service—he says.

Karen Bankston is a long-time contributor to Credit Union Management and writes about credit unions, membership growth, marketing, operations and technology. She is the proprietor of Precision Prose, Stoughton, Wis.

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