Credit unions, like banks, are scrambling to find alternative revenue sources as the Durbin Amendment debacle marches closer to reality. You've read the articles describing how financial institutions are creating new "relationship pricing" models to make up for the lost debit card interchange revenue. Free checking might go away. New fees are being introduced. Fraud protection "perks" may not be offered.
In all of these attempts, it appears to me that we are simply creating more hoops for our members to jump through in order to do business with us. Financial institutions are great hoop makers. We train our staffs to show members how to best jump through our hoops. We print brochures with hoop-jumping instructions.
But what if we created solutions that members would want to adopt and use? After all, our members live their busy lives without much thought about our hoops. Most of the time, we are relegated to a checklist of things to do on a specific day: put gas in the van before the prices jump, pick up the dry cleaning, deposit a check at the credit union, buy milk before going home, etc. Members are juggling many things and their minds are on a thousand things-and we might not necessarily be one of these "things."
But what if we made it easy for members to do business with us? You know, like a smart phone app that the member can enter and then quickly launch into their mobile solution or where they can apply for a loan or open a new account. Why can't we market our solutions that make sense for their lives versus marketing products that they need to adopt in order to avoid a fee?
Are we really wanting our members to engage with us when we ought to find ways for us to connect with them? These two ideas are not necessarily the same thing. If our members are our #1 priority, then shouldn't we engage with them instead of setting up another hoop for them to jump through?
Engaging means listening and working hard to discover what they want, not what we think they want. Engaging means making it easy to do business, which creates loyalty, deeper relationships and improved revenues. Everyone wins. And no hoops.
Relationship pricing won't go away. But if we are going to differentiate ourselves in the banking industry (yes, members do call us their "bank"), perhaps we would be wise to set aside our hoops and make it easy for our members to bring us into their lives.
Jim Johnson, VP-Member Services
3Rivers Credit Union, Ft. Wayne, Ind.