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Inside Marketing: Members Have a Life--Do You Know About It?

February 2007 – Vol: 30 No. 2
by Colin Piper

Inside Marketing: Members Have a Life—Do You Know About It?
Make sure your database or CRM system is up to date, so you can effectively use life information to build stronger member relationships.

By Colin Piper

February 15, 2007

Member: "I recently got married and I need to change the name on my checking account."
Teller: "Well, congratulations! Have you and your husband thought about opening a joint account so both of your names can be on the account?"
Member: "That's a good idea. We need to get that set up."
Teller: "It might also be wise to start a joint savings account."
Member: "Absolutely! Let's go ahead and do that."

The aforementioned conversation is an ideal example of a credit union teller picking up on clues about a members' life information and using this knowledge to provide that member with products to suit her exact needs. Does it always happen this way? No, but tellers can be trained and given the necessary tools and technology to use valuable conversations to the best advantage of the member.

Ideally, databases or customer relationship management systems help credit unions maintain up-to-date information on their members. In turn, these systems help credit union staff better serve members by "reading" their financial needs and providing information on products or services specifically targeted to them.

However, a CRM system's effectiveness depends on users' commitment to continuously updating member data. When not consistently and systematically updated or managed, an expensive CRM system effectively becomes a useless piece of technology. As a result, marketing materials either do not make it to the intended recipient, or the information is disregarded - because it is not relevant to the targeted member's current situation or set of needs.

As with any technology, there are potential pitfalls to avoid as well as proven tips to help realize the full benefit of a CRM solution. Don't let your relationship management technology go underutilized.

CRM: Easy As 1, 2, 3

Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research reports surveying 119 enterprises and interviewing 21 business and IT executives to understand how they select and evaluate customer relationship management professional services providers. Forrester found that organizations use 12 criteria comprising three critical dimensions:

  1. Competence (technology knowledge, process knowledge and industry knowledge)
  2. Relationship (easy to do business with, adheres to budget, adheres to schedule, provides new ideas and lowers cost of CRM ownership)
  3. Results (good value for money, results meet expectations, quickly realize value and improve productivity of users

CRM systems should be viewed and treated as a "holistic" approach to a credit union's philosophy and mission, placing the emphasis directly on the member. As such, they should be used to identify factors that are most important to members and that information should then be used to promote a member-oriented philosophy. When a member contacts his credit union for a specific financial need, he expects to have his request answered promptly, while simultaneously receiving a more "personal touch" - the very reason many people choose to do business with credit unions in the first place.

To establish and grow a lasting relationship with each member, credit union staff needs to receive effective training on how to best utilize relationship and sales tools like CRM systems. Daily interactions often result in members providing staff with what is known as "life information." Life information is up-to-date, readily available and given for free during a natural conversation between the member and a credit union's front-line staff. Information on life and financial changes - a new baby, an engagement or marriage, or a child going off to college - all qualify and are important, because they can result in major lifestyle and financial adjustments for the member.

There are proven strategies that can help credit union staff use this information to better provide successful member support.
Staff should be encouraged and trained to pick up on information provided by the member and then make relevant and meaningful suggestions for identifying potential product and service needs as a result. Good CRM software is able to help identify what a member values most and devise appropriate service strategies based on that knowledge.

CRM applications often track member interests and requirements, such as preferred method of statement delivery, preferred method of contact, e.g. phone or e-mail, type of accounts the member holds, in addition to buying habits. This information can be used to selectively target and market specific services to members. Furthermore, the products a member has purchased can be tracked, allowing them to receive information concerning relevant, complementary or additional products and services. Repeat purchases rely heavily on customer satisfaction, which, in turn, comes from a deeper understanding of each member and her individual needs. CRM provides the foundation for a viable alternative to the "one size fits all" approach. It enables a credit union to implement consistency in service to all members, while also providing the capability for customized attention to each member.

To work best, credit union staff also needs to know how to prompt members to provide life information and be able to capture it quickly and unobtrusively when provided in natural conversation. Make use of demographic data, personal preferences and products purchased as currently listed in your CRM and strive to refine and update the information by listening during everyday interactions and capturing bits of valuable knowledge. Members tend to appreciate the fact that their credit union is taking the time to learn more about their needs, being less likely to take offense to teller questions. On the reverse, not capturing member information may lead to repetitive questions and product offers that the member does not need.

Credit unions already have member demographic information at their disposal. Customer relationship software can take this information and provide enhanced services to the credit union and its entire membership. So how do staff know how to recognize this information and how can they learn how to prompt the members to provide more?

CRM software can guide an employee's behavior through a series of conversational prompts to help him/her capture and utilize this valuable member life information. Credit unions should encourage their employees to provide superior levels of service and help them retain current members by giving the members more of what they specifically need from their credit union.

Colin Piper is president of Econiq, which provides financial institutions with an innovative solution to maximize competitiveness and productivity at the point of contact by enhancing front-line sales effectiveness.

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