© 2020 Arizent. All rights reserved.
Opinion

The coronavirus is scaring members. Credit unions can help.

Register now

As the leader of a growing company, I know the challenges of the day all too well.

Whether you’re sitting at the head of a credit union, a business or a family, you’re also aware of just how much fear and uncertainty the people you care about are experiencing every day.

But this time isn’t so different from other moments of crisis in one way: people are looking for clear messages, concrete steps they can take control of, and ties with people they know they can trust.

As a leader within the credit union industry, let the three Cs of crisis communications guide your team and your members to deeper, more trusting relationships.

Clarity

Whether your goal is to inform, educate or engage your members, every message you send must prioritize clarity. In a crisis, clear communications can help members access the assistance they need more quickly.

To deliver on this:

  • Regularly update the COVID-19 related messaging on your website and app that explains the steps and adjustments your credit union made.
  • Provide relevant, helpful information about the availability of financial assistance programs using service-focused messaging.
  • Highlight succinct, actionable steps and encourage members to locate the answers they’re looking for and resolve questions through self-service options.

Be the resource your members need now and they’ll know who to turn to in the future. Your credit union’s clear communications today will make you members’ primary source for financial education and services tomorrow.

Consistency

Establish a norm for how your members can expect to hear from you and how they can reach you. While this is always a good idea, it is especially relevant in this moment when financial services are essential to your members.

Make sure your members have access to the conversations and resources they need through the channel that works best for them on a regular basis. As part of this strategy, give them options and opportunities to reach out that go across channels:

  • For those who aren’t comfortable with digital financial services yet, phone calls matter more than ever.
  • For those who already rely on digital access to their accounts, your self-service resources are of paramount importance and should include messaging that is consistent with the language on your website and social media.

You should also make sure your credit union staff has the right digital tools to educate and engage members with a consistent experience across channels.

Now that members can’t come into your branch, their online and app experience must provide them with the access and answers they need. To provide a consistent, humanized experience, your call center team must have the ability to quickly identify who members’ are, what recent actions they’ve taken, and what resources may be relevant to their needs.

Candor

Your members are a part of your credit union because they value community and connection, in their finances and in their lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has made us all more aware of just how human we are. Take a candid, human approach to your written and in-person communications.

Members who are experiencing financial hardship may feel overwhelmed and have trouble reaching out to get the resources they need.

To assist them:

  • Reach out and offer to help. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
  • Listen to what they need and provide relevant education about the options available to them.

For example, if a member service representative is talking to a small business owner, take this into consideration to ensure that they’re getting both personal and professional guidance.

If your credit union doesn’t have the answers to their questions yet, say so and offer to direct them to resources that may help. As the measures included in the CARES Act roll out, there have already been delays and several moments of great confusion for members and credit unions. This is to be expected with any new national program. Communicate this to members and be transparent about the actions your credit union is taking to support members.

Your members turn to you for information, education and advice. If you don’t know all the answers yet, you can still engage with them to get your members the resources they need.

Members look for answers from the institutions they trust

This is an extraordinary moment in our history, and your surest path forward is to continue promoting the humanized, empathetic message that your credit union is known for. Provide assurance, the assistance your members need, and access to financial products and services online.

These best practices for communication during a crisis can apply to your member communication strategy long after we’ve beaten this virus. Until then, you can build trust and reinforce lifelong relationships by being there, communicating clearly, and showing your members that they come first.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.