SLEEPY EYE, Minn.-SouthPoint FCU here has seen increased member satisfaction and a rising number of products-per-member since instituting its Service Points of Excellence program.

CEO Richard Nesvold explained that the 11,500-member, $231-million credit union had always thought it provided good service for its members, but a survey several years ago revealed otherwise.

"One of the things that came out of that was that we weren't really cognizant, and we weren't recognizing service in comparison to our peers and differentiating ourselves," he said. "That really hit home pretty hard. We always thought we did pretty well, but it's not what we think, it's what they think."

As a result of that survey, SouthPoint instituted Service Points of Excellence, which recently received a Best Practice award from CUNA's Operations, Sales & Service (OpSS) Council in the category of Sales & Service Management.

SouthPoint began the process of creating an improved service culture by asking employees what they would expect as a member and looking at ways the staff could deliver that level of service.


Coaching & Surveys

Additionally, it instituted bi-weekly coaching sessions and created quarterly surveys for staff and members. All surveys are anonymous, though surveys are crafted toward specific departments.

Coaching sessions help reinforce the CU's expectations of employees. "If there's an area they need work on or are challenged in delivering, (the sessions) help put the challenge out there for them to do it within the next couple of weeks. Basically it's a communication between the supervisor and the staff. Anytime they can communicate, that makes things happen."

Nesvold spoke to Credit Union Journal after having just taken part in a training session with new employees, and he said he stressed to them the importance of excellent service. "We can't always differentiate ourselves on price, so what can we do? We can differentiate ourselves in any economy by the level of service we provide to each other, as well as to our members."

SouthPoint tracks everything from transactional surveys after members join or go through the loan process to what Nesvold called "the three-step approach"-making sure that members are acknowledged by the time they've taken three steps into the facility. It also pushes to make sure e-mails and phone calls are returned within 24 hours.


Products-Per-Member Improves

The strategy seems to be working. Since Service Points of Excellence was instituted in 2008, Southoint's cross selling has paid off with products-per-member rising from 2.69 to 3.88 at the end of 2011. That number currently stands at 4.03, on track to hit a goal of 4.1 by year-end. Loan volume at the credit union has risen from 1,100 loans and $40 million since the end of 2007 it held in portfolio at year-end 2007. SouthPoint FCU currently holds more than 6,800 loans and leases totaling $160.7 million (its net worth is 14.96%.)

While service is important, Nesvold stressed that good service is ultimately good business. "It all turns into efficiencies, recognizing opportunities, listening to our members' needs and what's happening in their lives, and identifying products and services that will enhance or bring value to them," he said. "It's not just about dumping products and services at them."

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