CU Data

It’s a Piece of Cake!

Best laid plans must be altered at times but that doesn’t mean our initial attempts are without value.

October 08, 2012
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Despite my best intentions, strict adherence to recipe directions, and a significant amount of baking experience, the birthday cake I baked the other day was a mess.

The problem presented itself when I attempted to flip the layers out of the pans.  They got stuck.  Layers became chunks.

I had a decision to make: Reconstruct the chunks into layers—not likely—or throw it out and start over.

Then I considered a third option.  This damaged dessert would be just the thing for tossing in the freezer and turning into a lovely trifle for a different dinner party another day.  It tasted fabulous, and it would look pretty layered with custard and fruit.

At times best laid plans must be altered, but that doesn’t mean our initial attempts are without value.

We can learn from such experiences as we analyze what went awry, exercise creativity in problem solving, and hopefully find opportunities to reposition unexpected outcomes to our future advantage.  Serendipity!

Think about how you reposition products or services to accommodate consumers.  What prompts you to make alterations in plans?  Technological innovation?  Budget?  Or has the same old recipe just become tiresome?

Accurate information is an essential ingredient in successful problem solving.

Tasty techno trends

Don’t be half-baked when you consider how technology affects consumers.  It can be expensive.

See “How Smart are Smart Phones” by Boston College.  “Nearly half of people who have cell phones pay more than $100 per month for the service and 13% pay $200 or more” and this doesn’t count expenditures on apps, music, add-on data plans, or the device itself.

The upshot is that some consumers have decided to dump cell phones.  Reportedly, “30 million Americans do not own a cell phone…As Americans are still drowning in underwater housing markets, wages are depressed, and the middle class is squeezed—the cell phone bill is a burden for many.”

Also noteworthy, “Affluents Highly Engaged with Traditional Media,” says marketingcharts.com.  True, affluents spend more time online and are embracing mobile devices.  However, “traditional media channels still have great reach among these estimated 59 million US adults living in households with at least $100,000 in annual household income.”

What ads are effective?  “The largest proportion of affluents surveyed said they were receptive to ads on TV, followed by magazines and newspapers.  Other media—such as billboard and direct mail—scored highly for advertising reach, but less so for receptiveness, while radio performed better than websites on both counts.”

But these realities do not mean you should abandon the mobile messages.  Nearly three-fourths of consumers expect brands to have mobile-friendly sites, says Adweek.  Consumers are task-oriented when visiting mobile sites and have certain expectations.

Among them:

  • Fifty-five percent say “a frustrating mobile experience hurts their opinion of a brand”;
  • Sixty-one percent will abandon sites that are not mobile friendly; and
  • Sixty-seven percent of consumers will be more apt to make purchases at mobile-friendly sites.

What are you serving up for members with their varying technological expectations?

Workforce news

“Let them eat cake?”  What would Marie Antoinette say about our job scene?

Will Delayed Retirement by the Baby Boomers Lead to Higher Unemployment Among Younger Workers?”  This study indicates there is “…no evidence that increasing the employment of older persons reduces the job opportunities or wage rates of younger persons.  Indeed, the evidence suggests that greater employment of older persons leads to better outcomes for the young in the form of reduced unemployment, increased employment, and a higher wage.”

Unemployment rates were lower in August than a year earlier in 325 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 40 areas, and unchanged in seven areas,” reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in its “Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment Summary."

And, “Despite the slight decline in unemployment in September, unadjusted U.S. unemployment has remained relatively stagnant since May…Greater change will be needed before unemployed and underemployed Americans begin to feel relief, which is likely reflected in their diminished levels of hope.  Stagnant unemployment rates may be leading to feelings that there will not be an improvement in the near future.”

This is according to Gallup in “U.S. Unadjusted Unemployment Rate at 7.9% in September.”

CFPB at the table

Finally, a couple of slices from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are worth mentioning.

Is credit scoring is a confusing business? “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Study Finds Credit Scores Used by Consumers and Lenders Can Differ.”

Scores sold to creditors and consumers are potentially inconsistent.  “The study found that about one out of five consumers would likely receive a meaningfully different score than would a lender.”

This may prompt consumers to “take action that does not benefit them” and, consumers are unlikely aware about score discrepancies.

Some American Express users had a bit of a bad taste in their mouths as “CFPB Orders American Express to Pay $85 Million Refund to Consumers Harmed by Illegal Credit Card Practices.”

American Express was found to have violated consumer protection laws “at every stage of the consumer experience, from marketing to enrollment to payment to debt collection.”  These violations occurred between 2003 and spring 2012.  American Express has taken corrective action with refunds and changed practices.

Are you consistent in your various business practices and media announcements?  Does cooperation and collaboration at your credit union ensure that there are no miscommunications or resulting problems for members to require incorporation of contingency plans?

Adjusting a project may be challenging when you face time constraints, limited resources, a demanding audience, and various choices on handling imperfect results of previous attempts. If you give creative consideration to appealing ways you might reposition not-quite-right products or services, you might find that after all you hadn’t initially experienced a problem but rather an ingenious event. 

Can you have your cake and eat it too?

LORA BRAY is a research librarian in CUNA’s business-to-business publishing department.

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