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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