Want More Business? Just Ask

Oregon Community CU created a retail plan built around four elements.

January 10, 2011
KEYWORDS award , lending
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Teaching employees to effectively ask members for business helped Oregon Community Credit Union in Eugene achieve nearly 9% loan growth during the first five months of 2010.

Oregon Community’s success reflects a commitment to transforming operations by creating a sales and service culture.

These efforts earned the $911 million asset credit union a 2010 Credit Union Excellence in Lending Award from CUNA Mutual Group and the CUNA Lending Council.

Employee behavior

To support its culture transformation, Oregon Community created a Retail Plan around four elements:

  • Changes in employee behavior;
  • Expansion of member relationships;
  • Redefining the role of branch manager; and
  • Alignment and collaboration of all departments.

To tackle the plan’s biggest component—changing employee behavior—the credit union developed a comprehensive program called “360 Training” based on feedback from 30 employees.

The program is built on the premise that the difference between good member service and exceptional member service is a sales approach based on getting to know members, understanding their situations, and linking them to products they need.

Training began in January 2010 and was completed by most employees by April. Momentum grew each month as the sales and service culture permeated the credit union.

Sales contests, marketing promotions, and fun activities branch managers used with employees helped sustain momentum.

Lending initiatives

A “loan initiative group” comprised of senior management and key lending staff worked to add appeal to products and services.

For example, a fixed-portion personal line of credit allows members to take out credit line advances and fix the interest rate for a set period of time, eliminating worries about rising rates.

Another focus was direct lending, Oregon Community’s most prolific lending channel. The credit union’s dealer sales representative delivered the message to dealers that Oregon Community combined outstanding service with money to lend.

Direct loans grew from $67 million during the first seven months of 2009 to $102 million during the same period in 2010.

In the branch, a “1-1-1” promotion allowed members to choose between lowering their interest rate by 1%, lowering their payment by $100, or getting back 1% on a newly booked loan.

A loan-phone branch was created to focus on incoming loan calls, generating $13 million during the first half of 2010, well over half of its $20 million annual goal.

Operations support

The new culture was supported by new capabilities gained from a 2009 conversion to a new core processing system, making it possible to mine data needed to track sales initiatives.

The enhanced tracking enabled Oregon Community to create employee incentives for increased production and tie branch manager compensation to sales goals.

Oregon Community also reinstated profit sharing based on net worth and earnings goals.

Even in the midst of a recession, Oregon Community has found that a sales culture makes an invaluable contribution to efforts to become members’ trusted financial adviser.

By asking members for what they need—and then giving it to them—Oregon Community is delivering both exceptional loan growth and exceptional service to members.

View the award winning entry here.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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