CRM: ‘The Great Differentiator’

Software helps CUs use service as a selling point.

March 08, 2013
/ PRINT / ShareShare / Text Size +

When David Vey tells credit unions why customer relationship management (CRM) software is so important, he gives a simple example:

“The daughter of one of your most important members comes in to cash a check, but she doesn’t have an account with you. Your teller routinely asks her for three pieces of identification, a request that alienates her.”

Vey, CEO of Sedona Corp., says a good CRM system would have tagged that account’s importance to the credit union and pulled up information about the member’s household. That way, the teller would have known how to handle the family member’s transaction quickly.

Chris Braccia, director of product management at Harland Financial Solutions, calls CRM “the great differentiator” because a good member experience is often the only edge credit unions have today.

“This includes defined criteria based on the complete member relationship with the credit union,” he says. “Say a credit union designates its most valuable members as ‘retains,’ and crafts a set of criteria around them that defines interaction benefits.    

So when Mary Smith is distressed about a fee she thinks is unfair and the teller sees ‘retain’ in her CRM profile, he removes the fee.”

Credit unions share three common goals in using CRM, says Floyd Salamino, vice president of CRM consulting at Marquis. “Along with increasing member retention and recruitment, they’re also looking to increase cross-sales and automate in-house processes. Where they can differ is in how developed their sales and service cultures are.

“Some of them look at CRM as a way to bolster existing sales and service cultures that already have buy-in from senior leadership and front-line employees,” Salamino continues. “They’re looking for technology to support and expand those capabilities.”

Make information actionable

Staff buy-in is crucial for making CRM systems effective, Braccia says. Obtaining that buy-in requires giving all member contact representatives access to useful member information. “The credit union has all of these bits of data about John or Mary Smith—the key is to compile and analyze the data, turning it into actionable information that can be used by staff to improve sales.”

Harland Financial Solutions’ system, Touché Analyzer, uses “segmentation schemes,” elaborate data categories that make information available to staff. This includes members’ purchasing propensities, share of wallet, cross-selling suggestions, and members’ current and potential value to the credit union, Braccia says.

Vey notes that while almost everybody can use, for example, an Excel spreadsheet, “the average user takes advantage of maybe 1% of its potential. Our goal is to take the power of our software and make it easy for users to learn and obtain useful data. You have to know how to migrate the information and present it in interesting and useful ways.”

CRM advances over the years include more intuitive and user-friendly interfaces, including an improved layout, more logical flow, and clearer verbiage, says Salamino.

“The days of programmer-centered software are long gone,” he says. “Also, there’s much wider acceptance of the technology and a greater focus on results versus activities. Credit unions aren’t just tracking referrals or calls, they’re now looking more strategically at the actual results of those actions.”

Implementation, however, is the hard part. “Credit unions don’t set up CRM software every day, which is why they turn to us for help,” Salamino says. “We send a consultant onsite to help them customize the software and stay focused on what’s essential.”

The most important thing is simplicity, he says. “Once you’ve mastered a few essential elements, expand your use of the software’s other features.”

It’s also important to prove results, Salamino adds. “Set a benchmark and goals, and develop metrics for measuring progress: Where are you now and where do you want to be in 12 months? Track, measure, and adjust along the way.”

NEXT: CRM best practices

Post a comment to this story


What's Popular

Popular Stories

Recent Discussion

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 ( 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.

Your Say: Who should be Credit Union Magazine's 2014 CU Hero of the Year?

View Results Poll Archive