It's the big events that get chronicled. A branch opening. A new headquarters. A merger.
But it is, ironically, the smallest and seemingly most mundane of events that are most memorable of all, for it is the sum total of all those immeasurable "everyday" interactions with members that ultimately determine a credit union's lifespan. An in-branch visit. A cross-sale. A problem resolved.
In this issue, Credit Union Journal publishes our 17th annual "Day in the Life of Credit Unions" project in conjunction with International Credit Union Week. This project is exactly what the name suggests: a look at an average day in the life of a credit union, with participating CUs all shooting photos the goings-on at their respective offices on the same day in August.
This year's participants stretch from Key West to Ketchikan, Alaska, and while employees at one wouldn't recognize an ice scraper and employees at the other would be stumped by a conch, what they share is a dedication to those small acts of serving members that are at the heart of financial cooperatives.
This year's International Credit Union Day and Week theme borrows from the slogan CUNA has been using in much of its messaging, "Unite for Good." What unites credit unions? You'll find the answers beginning on page 13.
Learning From Another Co-op
* Speaking of cooperatives, it isn't just the structure that is similar, regardless of industry; it's also many of the same challenges. Take getting members to be more active in voting in board elections, for example.
As reported in the Oct. 7 issue, a senior exec with Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), the iconic seller of outdoors-related gear that is also a cooperative, addressed a group of credit unions in Tampa recently as part of a CUNA Mutual-sponsored discussion of member centricity.
Many of REI's members are passionate about the company. But the passion for climbing mountains has not translated into a mountain of board ballots.
"We want to engage our members; they are our owners," said Michelle Eten, divisional VP with the company. "That's why we went to online voting. The paper ballot process wasn't working. But we struggle; we're in the low single digits, quite frankly. But we have gotten positive member feedback about being able to participate."
REI has a 12-member board represents the company's five-million active members (it defines "active" as having purchased something from REI in the past two years). Eten said that as part of the effort to better engage those members it has moved to conducting its annual meeting online, with members are able to submit questions in advance to the board chair and the CEO. "We want full transparency," she said.
More CUs have moved to online voting-although they remain a distinct minority. Broadcasting the annual meeting would be a great next step for credit unions; even if members can't view it live, the broadcast could be archived and available on the CU's site for the full year. And even if most members still don't watch it the fact that it is there is a strong reminder of the CU difference.
Here's another idea CUs should "borrow" from their fellow co-op: REI takes an outside-the-headquarters' perspective on the buying process at REI.com that its customers/members go through.
"We focus on the customer journey," said Eten, who is a member of the board at BECU in Tukwila, Wash. "We recently set out to see the experience as it exists, such as for buying footwear. We identified pain points and opportunities for improvement."
What is that journey like for your members? Don't just take your IT department's word that there's no pain. Here's what REI does: it sets up a table in its stores and then sits with customers as they go through the buying process, especially with prototype designs. "The service prototype is the experience that can be built," said Eten. "We test and learn focus. A low-fidelity prototype is used to incubate and prove concepts."
What might you learn from having members pause in your lobby for a couple of moments to use your website or, increasingly importantly, your mobile and tablet interfaces? Would you be afraid to know? Eten suggested that many CUs might need to admit to themselves that their mobile solutions aren't easy to use. That's just what REI had to do when it attempted to force its web interface into a screen smaller than the user's hand. REI has reworked how it presents e-mails, for example.
"Over 50% of e-mails are opened the first time on a smart phone, and it isn't going to stop there," said Eten, noting REI has reworked e-mails so type and graphics are larger and navigation is more condensed and easily scrolled through.
So go take some time and see what your member is experiencing from their point of view in every aspect of your operation. Doing so will very likely improve every "day in the life" of your members.
Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at email@example.com.
International Credit Union Day
NAFCU Regulatory Compliance Seminar, Gaylord Opryland, Nashville, Tenn. For info: www.nafcu.org/events, or 800-344-5580.
California and Nevada Leagues' Annual Meeting, San Francisco. For info: www.ccul.org.
CUES CEO/Executive Team Network, Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego. For info: www.cues.org.
League of Southeastern Credit Unions Leadership Development Conference, Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Point Clear, Ala. For info: www.lscu.coop.
CUES Directors Conference, Hyatt Regency Maui. For info: www.cues.org.
Metropolitan Area Credit Union Manager's Association (MACUMA) January meeting. Washington, D.C. For info: www.macuma.org
CUNA Volunteer Institute. Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, Montego Bay, Jamaica. For info: www.cuna.org
CUES Symposium 2014: A CEO/Chairman Exchange. The Fairmont Orchid, Kohala Coast, Big Island, Hawaii. For info: www.cues.org
17th Annual Volunteer Leadership Institute, presented by The Paragon Group. Wailea Beach Marriott Resort, Wailea, Maui, Hawaii.For info: www.theparagongroup.com.
Metropolitan Area Credit Union Manager's Association (MACUMA) February meeting. Washington, D.C. For info: www.macuma.org
NAFCU Technology & Security Conference, Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas. For info: www.nafcu.org.