CRM: ‘The Great Differentiator’

Software helps CUs use service as a selling point.

March 08, 2013
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CRM best practices

Vey acknowledges it’s less imperative for small credit unions to have a CRM solution than it is for large institutions.

“The CEO can say, ‘We have 1,000 members and I know them all so there’s no need for CRM,’ ” he explains. “But what happens when there’s an influx of new members; say, several hundred? Now they’re just names with no faces or kids to associate with them. Suddenly you’ve grown into the need for CRM.”

Another factor driving acceptance of CRM is that financial industry leaders have become much more tech-savvy and sophisticated during the past decade. “This has spilled over into member relationships,” Vey says.

Clients can customize CRM software with their own stratification schemes by, for example, dividing members into Platinum, Gold, or Silver households, and then suggesting which products these members likely will want next.

“Our software can also track what solicitations households have received from the credit union’s marketing department, so a frontline person can talk about that topic without having to bring the member up to speed,” says Salamino.

“Credit unions can include scripts and qualifying questions for employees to follow when they’re cross-selling,” he adds. Triggers such as birthdays or anniversaries also are useful.

When targeting new members, these triggers include actions for staff to take, such as a congratulatory phone call, Salamino explains. This allows management to track staff’s calling efforts and how much business these actions generated.

Braccia says credit unions with several branches can find CRM hard to juggle. That’s why he advises developing a template at one branch that can be used at others.

“As far as individual CRM components, such as referrals, sales tracking, contact management, and servicing,” he adds, “we advise focusing on one at a time, and not trying to learn all aspects at once.”

The idea is to avoid adding many new CRM-related tasks to those the member-facing representative must tackle each day. It’s important to remember, Braccia says, that successful CRM deployment includes behavioral change. “Give it time. Mastery of CRM can take anywhere from 18 months to three years. You don’t do it in a rush.”

Financial institutions sometimes are at odds with the concept of retailing, says Braccia. “But we are in a commodity business so we can’t play the product or price game because both categories are easy to replicate. What’s left is a good consumer experience that narrows the ‘consumer expectation gap’—namely what consumers expect versus what they get.

“People who come into a credit union are on serious business,” he continues. “They want to be greeted by name, acknowledged that they’re doing a serious task, appreciated for their patronage, and reinforced in their perception that the credit union is a trusted financial ally.”

Salamino agrees the credit union movement is more sales-driven than it once was. “That doesn’t mean pushing people to buy products they don’t need—people like to buy things, not to be sold. CRM allows credit unions to understand their existing relationships with members and to be more proactive in suggesting suitable products.”

He adds that it can take credit unions a long time to embrace and use CRM. “As a former credit union executive, I know first-hand about managing multiple priorities. We encourage potential clients to talk to other credit unions, both about us and our product, and about CRM itself.”

Vey advises credit unions to spread their footprint and provide more and better services.

“Not doing so makes them look like a cafeteria that doesn’t serve soup, salad, or veggies,” he says. “Members who want a full range of services will go elsewhere if the credit union doesn’t provide them. Your job is to recognize your members’ needs and serve them.”


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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 ( 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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