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Want happier members? It starts with who you hire

A lot of work—done by hundreds of thousands of employees—goes on behind the scenes every day at credit unions across the country. But as an industry, we need to continue our focus on our members’ experiences, whether that’s in-person at a local financial center or through phones or online member service. We must always remember that we write the story our members will tell.

A financial institution could offer the best, most competitive products and services, but if it doesn’t “pass the test” by providing stellar member service on the front end, few people will take the time to find out about those products. A best-in-class member experience also means that member representatives must often not only be member service experts, but financial experts as well. Those are high expectations.

Talent selection is critical for businesses that rely heavily on member experiences. Resumes are important, but the intangible factors are the most critical. Leaders and managers selecting talent should invest in those individuals who possess behaviors that mirror the goals of the credit union, especially people who are skilled in communication and in finding solutions to challenging problems.

Credit unions should be consistently and actively recruiting talent, instead of waiting until a position opens up. At PenFed, while we sometimes select from a database of applicants for a particular position, we have found that this is not always the best place to find top talent for our financial centers. An urban financial center, for example, may have 200 applicants for one job opening, but a more rural location may only have three—none of whom are a good fit for the position.

This is why we encourage financial center managers to scout locally. Sometimes, this means acting as a “mystery shopper” at stores within the community, to find individuals who are particularly skilled in customer service. In other cases, it means sourcing for talent at local universities or colleges. Our talent acquisition specialists also recruit from military installations and from organizations that serve groups like military spouses.

Don’t just train technical skills

The credit union philosophy of “people helping people” is at the heart of everything our industry does. When we train new talent, we don’t just train individuals to use the technical systems they will need to serve members. We train team members in empathy—making an emotional connection with every member who walks through the door. We train them in behaviors. We teach them to listen to the members’ needs and try to find solutions whenever possible. We cover everything from the words to use when interacting with members to how serving members inside a financial center is different from serving a member at the drive-through window.

We also train team members on what to do if they have to say “no.” It’s important to address how to approach experiences that don’t go as planned. Sometimes this just means being honest and candid with a member. But usually, it means figuring out how to achieve the objective in a different way, saying, “We weren’t able to do x, but we can do y.”

Training is a continual process. It is important to ask team members what’s next for them—where they hope to be in a year, in five years—and create a plan for them to achieve their goals. It is also important for managers to recognize successes daily, and to course correct behaviors that don’t align with expectations.

In addition, credit unions should be consistent in what they expect from team members. If everyone at the credit union is familiar with the same mission and expectations, more people will excel.

A company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS), which ranges from -100 to 100, measures consumer experiences and predicts business growth. It is a key measure of consumers’ overall perception of a brand and provides a touchstone for engaging an organization’s workforce in its consumer experience program. A score above 70 is considered “world class” and means the majority of a business’s consumer base is loyal to that business.

Credit unions should set an NPS goal and always know what their current NPS score is. At PenFed, by always keeping our NPS goal top of mind, we have been successful in consistently raising our score.

Team members at every level of the credit union and in every financial center should know that they are all responsible for “holding the rope” when it comes to member experiences and for helping the credit union achieve a top NPS.

Managers should focus on positive engagement with teammates. Having a member survey system in place can help leadership recognize top talent and excellent performances. As senior vice president of branch operations, I send personal emails every day to all PenFed teammates who receive a 10 out of 10 member service score. Member survey systems that allow for comments also give teammates the opportunity to call a member back and address any concerns the member might have had.

It is important to recognize great work. Recently, I recognized Dana McCrae, manager at our DCVA Financial Center in Washington. After service from Dana, a member wrote, “They say in life the journey to your next destination is what you should be thankful for, not necessarily the end result. Mrs. McCrea deals with us veterans like we are millionaires. We’re not, but on that day she made me feel like one!

Our industry can take pride in the service we provide our members. The member experience is the heart of credit unions’ success. We don’t push products. Instead, we operate with a mission to have consultative conversations, to help our members succeed, while demonstrating that our membership is at the heart of all that we do. We will continually be writing the story our members will tell.

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