Posts Tagged member service

CUNA to Select Twelve Students for Googolplex Youth Editorial Board

Posted by on Thursday, 5 January, 2012

MADISON, Wis. (January 5, 2012)—Representatives from CUNA will select students from across America to serve one-year terms as youth editorial board members for the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) toolkit called Googolplex: The Credit Union Guide for Student Moneymakers.

Requests for applications are currently being accepted through February 6, 2012, for all 12 positions. The new student board members’ terms will begin on June 1, 2012.

“Year after year, the insight we receive from these bright students is instrumental in designing financial literacy tools that resonate strongly with children and young adults,” says Rena Crispin, Googolplex managing editor. “At CUNA, we believe that it’s vital to start financial education at a young age.”

Googolplex is a youth-focused element of CUNA’s onlineEDGE program, which guides credit union members through financial decisions at every stage of life. Googolplex features interactive games, videos, blogs and other content dealing with money matters and real life issues to promote financial literacy for youth aged 6-18.

Youth editorial board members complete two brief online critiques each month of stories and games in age-specific sections of Googolplex’s award-winning three-in-one website. At the end of their terms, each of the 12 board members writes an original story forGoogolplex.

  • Four elementary school-aged students will serve on the Clubhouse Crew for 5-Spot.
  • Four middle school-aged students make up the Super Youth Team for AJ’s.
  • Four high-school-aged students will be on the Teenage Panel advising C-Note.

“Our youth board members provide us with feedback that ensures that their peers feel welcome and validated whenever they use Googolplex on their credit union’s website,” says Susan Tiffany, CCUFC, director of consumer periodicals.

Board members must be in grades 3-12 in the fall of 2012 or, if home-schooled, of the same grade-level ages, and will work from home. Applications are available by request from Corey Pratt, Googolplex youth editorial board liaison. Please state the child’s grade level or age equivalent if home-schooled. Requests are due by February 6, 2012.

To learn more about how Googolplex and other onlineEDGE tools benefit both credit unions and their members, visit and

What Credit Unions Can Learn From Ritz Carlton

Posted by on Friday, 27 August, 2010

From Rick Olson:

Joe Callaway, author of Indispensable, gave us a great insight when he said “if you only look within your own industry, you are destined to eat the dust of your competitors.”  Scores of credit unions have made dramatic, positive changes by learning from one of the finest service providers in America, the Ritz-Carlton.

Having facilitated the World Class Customer Service Executive Institute for the past half dozen years, let me share with you some insights that have helped transform the service cultures of many credit unions.

Learning verses training

Recently, the Ritz-Carlton was named the training company of the year in the United States.  What a remarkable achievement.  Yet, when they talk about it, they say that they are a learning organization, not a training organization.  And what is the difference?  Learning is active, training is passive.  Learning puts the responsibility on the student/pupil.  Training puts the responsibility on the teacher.  Everyone within the Ritz-Carlton organization understands it is their responsibility to know what they need to know to excel at their job.


One of the most remarkable statements I have heard from the Ritz people is when they talk about their approach to marketing and advertising.  Their philosophy is this “Our empowered employees are our number one advertising strategy.”  You’ve never seen a  Ritz-Carlton ad on TV because they don’t advertise on TV.  And yet they have the majority of the top rated hotels in the country.  Every employee at the Ritz is empowered to make things right for the hotel guests.  They not only correct problems extremely well, but they go out of their way to make sure you have a memorable experience when you stay there.

Let me tell you my favorite empowerment story from the Ritz.  We were meeting in Atlanta and two ladies asked to tell their story before we started the session in the morning.  They were so excited about the previous evening.  The concierge had put together a great plan for them to see the highlights of Atlanta.  At one of the subway stops, the concierge got on their subway (he was on his way home).  He caught their eye, engaged them in conversation, and wished them well before getting off.  When they returned to their hotel room later that night, there was a nice note and a bottle of wine from the concierge thanking them for the great conversation.  They were thrilled, they told the class the story, and I have been telling the story for the past 5 years. 

I own the problem

Every employee who works at the Ritz-Carlton is committed to 12 service standards.  Each of the commitments begins with the word ‘I …’.  Number six is my favorite.  It says “I own and immediately resolve guest problems”.  In other words, if any employee becomes aware of a guest need or problem, they own that situation until it is fully resolved.  Every employee is committed to this standard. It is amazing to see in action.  I saw it lived out the first time I stayed at a Ritz.  Khalid was the bellman who took me to my room.  He talked to me about Wisconsin (my home state), Atlanta, and the group of credit union people who were gathering.  When he opened the door to my room, we discovered that the room was a mess.  Sheets and a bedspread on the floor, dirty dishes, litter throughout.  It was an awkward, embarrassing moment for Khalid.  But he never blamed anyone, nor did he roll his eyes. He simply apologized and brought me to a nice lounge.  He said he would get the room cleaned and come back and get me in 30 minutes.  Sure enough, in a half hour, he came and got me and brought me to my room.  It was perfect.  And there was a gift on my dresser for my inconvenience.  Khalid saw the problem, owned the problem, and dazzled me – the first time guest.

The lessons at the Ritz come fast and furious.  There is nothing like examining the very best, see how they do it, and return to your credit union to put those lessons into practice. 

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from looking outside of the industry?

Rick Olson is the President of Rick Olson Seminars and is the lead presenter for CUNA’s World Class Customer Service Executive Institute.

Get to Know CUNA: What is MRM?

Posted by on Thursday, 22 July, 2010

The MRM Team - L-R Top: Barb Bender, Debbie Michels, Bottom: Sherri Wagner, Tonna Winkers, Connie Acker

I’ll give you a hint – you probably have talked to them on the phone once or twice… 

Tonna Winkers, MRM Manager, recently sat down to answer some questions about what (and who) the CUNA MRM department is and what they do. 

CUNAverse: What is MRM? What does your department do?
Tonna Winkers: The Member Relationship Management (MRM) team handles CUNA customer service orders and questions regarding CUNA products and subscriptions.  These come into MRM in a variety of ways; phones, web, email, fax or mail.  The department is made up of a great team of five, experienced representatives, who work in a call center environment.  We answer the phones from 8:00-4:30 CST, Monday-Friday. 

What is your favorite thing about working in customer service?
One of my favorite things about working in MRM is having the chance to talk to a variety of people in credit union land.  I’m sure everyone’s customer service area would say this, but I think we have the best customers!  Most people don’t realize the bond that a representative can create with customers over the phone.  Even though almost all of our correspondence is done over the phone or through email, we still get to know our customers and become friends.  We have worked with a number of our customers for years. 
What’s the biggest misconception about what MRM does?
I have always thought that the biggest misconception is that because we work in a call center environment, that others think our jobs are monotonous.  While we do the same type of work each day, e.g., answer phones, process orders, etc., each person we talk to and each order we handle is different.  We receive the regular types of calls that you would expect, but we have also received calls for directions from the airport, from credit union members trying to get credit bureau information, and sometimes from people who just want to talk.  Each situation is unique and is handled based on what that caller needs.  Even if we’re not the person, area, or company that can help them, we try to direct them to where they should go to get their answers.

Because we touch almost every area in CUNA, we’ve become known as the “go to area” when someone needs to know an answer and isn’t sure where to go for it.  While we may not know the answer, we usually know the right people that do.  Customer service jobs have a lot more variety than others realize.

What are some lessons learned over the years?
The MRM team has over 115 combined years of CUNA customer service experience.  You can imagine the lessons we’ve learned over the years!!  Here are a few of the lessons that really stick out to the MRM team:

  • Remember to always be patient with customers.  Sometimes they are not sure of what they want, and need you to assist them in getting to the end result.  You have to make sure you’re taking the time to help them get what they need.
  • Be sympathetic to what the caller is going through.  If it’s a problem, be quick to fix it; if a quick fix is not possible, call them back with 24 hours to provide a time frame on when they can expect a resolution or a follow up.
  • How you say something matters just as much, if not more, than what you say.  Your tone can carry more of a message than words.
  • I had a representative keep customer service notes that she had from 1989 that she passed on to me when she retired.  Some of these notes are “Give 100-200%” and “The caller does not always care about how much you know; they want to know how much you care!”

How can CUNA members contact you with questions?
We can be contacted a variety of ways: phone 1-800-356-8010, press 3; or email; or orders can be placed on our website too at  We’d love to hear from you!

Nip/Tuck – CUNA’s Website Gets a Facelift!

Posted by on Friday, 9 July, 2010

Have you heard the news? CUNA’s website has undergone a make-over! The brand new look debuted the morning of July 5, bringing improved capability. As luck would have it, I recently had a Q&A session with Kevin Knope, CUNA’s Director of Systems & Support, who oversaw the new site’s construction.

CUNAVerse: Why the design change for CUNA’s website?
Kevin Knope: We made the decision to redesign based in part on analysis of visitor surveys and internal and external feedback–but mainly because our design was really old. CUNA launched its first site in 1995. Between 1995 and 2003 we had 6 different designs. In 2003, our visitors told us they were experiencing redesign fatigue. That led us to stick with that 2003 design (with slight modifications) for more than 6 years.

What benefits do the changes hold for those browsing it?
Better access to the depth and breadth of resources that CUNA provides. We’ve made enhancements to navigation and design to try to give a more cohesive user experience. The prior design was so established that people knew where the information they needed was, but it wasn’t as intuitive to browse as it could be. We hope that the new design improves on that, offering a clearer picture of CUNA at a high level.  Improvements in workflow, and automation allow us to deliver more information faster than ever, which means more of what our visitors are looking for, sooner.

How long did the design process take?
We spent about six months in actual development. Gathering data and input took longer.

How many people were involved with the redesign?
We had a small steering committee from our executive management team, an advisory group, an external design firm, and our development team. Approximately 30 people with some serving multiple functions.

What are you most excited about?
Personally, I’m most excited about the prospect of increasing access to CUNA. We have had a lot of positive reaction already, we like hearing that the design is attractive and that it’s more intuitive to navigate, but have we increased the value they find in the site, and in CUNA? I really hope that in the next 6 months or so we can look at our metrics and say, “Yes, this made a difference.”

What is a lesson learned that you’d like to pass onto our readers?
You can’t make decisions in a vacuum, but you can’t make them in a town hall either. 10 years ago, we didn’t spend a lot of time in analysis and discussion. We felt like we just knew what was best and we did it, and people thanked us for it. The Web is too integral to an organization to run it like a fiefdom, no matter how benevolent. We had an excellent cross-functional advisory team of about 15 people on this project. Big enough to get the perspective of CUNA and the various audiences we serve, small enough to get (with some work) consensus. Combine that perspective with site metrics and visitor surveys and you have enough information to decide what you need to do better and devise a strategy to do it. To execute that strategy, you need the support of senior management. Our steering committee was small enough to meet on short notice, make decisions and recommendations quickly, while still representing the broad perspective of CUNA.

As you can see, an overhaul of a website is no easy task. Time, preparation, and implementation are all key players in the success of the live site. Has your credit union remodeled your website in the past?  What lessons did you learn in the process?

What I Learned About Social Media at Marketing Management School

Posted by on Wednesday, 7 July, 2010

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending CUNA’s Marketing Management School in Orlando, Florida. Although my tenure (ten years!) at CUNA has provided me with opportunities to travel and work at various onsite events this was my first experience working with credit union marketers. It was an absolute delight!

Meghann Dawson, my colleague and fellow CUNAverse blogger, spent the last year working with Anne Legg (CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Chair), and Randy Schultz (of Weber Marketing) to revamp the existing school.

The result was a stellar 3D program, with “dimensions” for marketers of every level.  Dimension 1 was led by Randy Schultz; Dimension 2 was led by Mark Arnold, CCUE (of Neighborhood Credit Union) and Dimension 3 was led by Jeff Rendel (of Rising Above Enterprises). This trio was responsible for leading and facilitating the educational offerings. Throughout the week Meghann and I heard from students in each dimension that their facilitator was “the best of the three.” Clearly, Randy, Mark and Jeff brought their “A game” to Orlando, as did all of the other speakers.

I personally learned A LOT at Marketing Management School… I could write several posts on the experience…but, I’ve boiled it down to this:

If you want to be a strong leader, you need to embrace Web 2.0/Social Media. What do I mean by this? You need to start educating yourself on Web 2.0. This means reading blogs (this one is a great start!), subscribing to RSS feeds, investigating wikis, and watching videos on sharing sites like YouTube, to name a few.  Social Media  is not a passing fad. Strong leaders recognize the true power of the Internet and the importance of being technologically savvy.  Embracing Web 2.0 might mean asking for help. Enlist the help of your part-time student teller. Hire a marketing intern from your local high school or college.  If nothing else, check out other credit unions who are embracing Web 2.0 well. Do whatever it takes to get educated because education truly IS power.

Last week my 11 year old niece taught my mom more about her iPhone in 3 days, than my mom had learned in 3 months. Why? Because kids play! They aren’t afraid to push buttons until they figure things out.  Become a kid again. Play! Have fun! Open yourself up to learning. It’s the only way to survive in today’s fast-paced, ever-connected world.

If your credit union is not involved in social media efforts, it’s time to get on board. In each classroom, this message was resounding. Web 1.0 was about obtaining information, Web 2.0 is about people. More importantly, people connecting with other people. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

43% of the online community is now using social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter. (If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, this piece is a good starting point). If you want your credit union to thrive, you must have an online presence.

As Senior Vice President of Marketing for Neighborhood Credit Union, Mark Arnold shared his top  Five Reasons for Using Social Media to Reach Members:

  1. To drive sales.
  2. To improve member service.
  3. To build your credit union’s brand.
  4. To create name awareness.
  5. To potentially save money.

As Mark pointed out so succinctly, social networking is about collaborating, interacting and transparency. Social networking is about honesty, authenticity, conversations and dialogue. Isn’t that what credit unions are all about too?

I returned from Marketing Management School refreshed, rejuvenated and reinspired by all of the wonderful things that are going on in Credit Union Land. I thank all of you who joined us on the journey!

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” —B. B. King

What Credit Unions Can Learn From Pizza Hut

Posted by on Tuesday, 29 June, 2010

It has become a tradition now for the Madison-based CUNAverse team to have regular meetings at a neighborhood Pizza Hut for their lunch buffet. It started out by the other team members agreeing to go there to humor me – I talked more than once about eating at one a lot during high school and not going there since.

Then we ate there and were WOWed. So much so that we actually said “Wow” out loud a few times to each other. It’s not that the food is amazing – it’s good not great – but the experience is what makes it amazing. We have a regular table now.

Wait, how is a franchised lunch buffet relevant to credit unions you ask?

Provide Great Service. The first time we went there, the server asked us what kind of pizza we liked and if we didn’t see it on the buffet…they would make it. And they did make it. And then they brought it to the table to give us the first slices to ensure we got it. They did that more than once and in a way that didn’t seem like it was out of character or annoying. Wow. Also, none of us ever had to ask for drink refills because the server seemed to anticipate our every need. We felt special.

Consistency is Important. This great service must be instilled at a higher level because every server we’ve had since we started going there has been fantastic. We’ve started talking about it to others even (heck, I’m blogging about it right now!). But one time recently I did meet my family there for lunch to show them how great it is…and the restaurant failed me. The service was good, not great like the pizza. We had to ask for things and weren’t asked if we wanted anything not on the buffet. If you set high standards, every staff person needs to meet them.

Go Beyond Expectations. The first time we went there, we weren’t expecting much. It’s a lunch buffet right? The whole point is to not serve you and let you fend for yourself. Our server ended up taking care of us better than most do when you are eating a non-buffet meal! They anticipated our needs, met them and went one little step further.

Think about this: to consumers, people generally don’t expect much from their financial institution. It’s a chore that has to get done. It should be easy to WOW them.

Set a small goal for yourself this week – what’s one little thing you and/or your credit union can do to go beyond your members’ expectations?

How I Started My 25 Years at CUNA

Posted by on Monday, 21 June, 2010

Ellis Waller holding a cut-out image of himself from the 1980s as part of a "Home Alone"-styled marketing promotion.

From Ellis Waller:

It was April Fools day, 1985 when I arrived at CUNA for a job interview. Dressed in a gray business suit, with dark gray socks, black shoes, white shirt and a tasteful stripped tie, Glen Farrell ushered me into Wes Millar’s office for an interview.

CUNA Strategic Services was then called CUNA Supply and was located on the ground floor across from the stock room. At that time, CUNA was in the ad specialty business and the stock room was filled with more teddy bears, key chains, note pads, baseball hats, and statement stuffers than you can imagine.

Wes and I hit it off well and after a while he asked me to write the answers to several marketing questions he had prepared. I was being interviewed for the Marketing Manager position. Long known for my unreadable handwriting, I told Wes that I would need to borrow a typewriter because he would not be able to read my handwriting. He obliged and asked Glenn Farrell to give up her desk outside his office to let me use her typewriter.

It was a new IBM Selectric. Some recent, and younger CUNA staffers, are unfamiliar with the Selectric. But back in the 1980s, clerical staff would almost fight to have one. On the Selectric, the type fonts were embossed on a small silver ball that rotated up and down, right and left and front and back. Each ball, (they were interchangeable, thus the name Selectric) had the full alphabet in lower and upper case, numbers from 0 to 9, and the symbols that are found on the current PC keyboard. It was very fast, but when you made a mistake you had to use Whiteout, to correct it.

The puzzled looks on people’s faces were a delight to see when they came into CUNA Supply and saw me typing away at a secretary’s desk. I must have scored well on the Wes Test or else Wes was playing an April Fools day joke on me, but he hired me and I showed up the next week, again dressed in gray and black. I stayed for 25 more years, moving around among various CUNA Departments.

I have truly enjoyed my twenty-five years at CUNA and working with the Councils has been a great capstone for my career. What a pleasure it is to see the Councils grow, prosper and achieve new degrees of professionalism each year. I am delighted to be leaving on an up-tick with membership at an all time high and still growing.

We have a great team, a great mission, and a great organization here at CUNA. I am proud to have been part of it all!

Ellis Waller is the Membership Manager for the CUNA Councils. He will be retiring in a few weeks after twenty-five years at the Credit Union National Association.

Ode to My Credit Union: Becoming Your Members’ Go-To Resource

Posted by on Friday, 11 June, 2010

Tracy Anderson

From Tracy Anderson:

I have to admit that my personal finance skills have never been great.  Sure, my parents encouraged me to budget and tried to reinforce the importance of saving for a rainy day.   It wasn’t until I found myself buried with student loans and other “adult” expenses just like many other college grads that I finally cracked down on my spending, and created a personal budget.

I received plenty of help from my credit union to get my budget on track through categorized expense tracking, calculators, personal meetings and and tips on their Web site.  The small amount of personal attention made them my go-to resource for any questions or future financial assistance.

While it is great to have these resources now, I often wish I had been fully engaged with my finances from an earlier age.  I didn’t truly grasp the concept of how much life could cost until I was out on my own – thrown into the real world!

Younger generations are really struggling with money management skills much like older members, and the economy hasn’t made life easier for anyone.  This is evident by a recent article in Credit Union Magazine stating that bankruptcy filings in March of 2010 represented the highest monthly consumer filing, reaching 149,268!  American Bankruptcy Institute(ABI) Executive Director Samuel J. Gerdano states, “The sustained economic pressures of unemployment coupled with high pre-existing debt burdens are a formula for consumer filings to surpass 1.5 million filings.”

Many members are feeling lost and unsure of what their next step should be, so now is the time for credit unions to sweep in and help.  While you can help your current members get back on their feet, you also have the ability to be known as the source of good personal finance habits for potential members and prevent the financial issues many people currently face.

What kinds of things are you doing to be the trusted, go-to resource for your current and future members?

Tracy Anderson is Marketing Communications Specialist for the Credit Union National Association.

Incentive Programs – First Up or Last Resort?

Posted by on Tuesday, 1 June, 2010

Angela Prestil

From Angela Prestil:

I recently had the pleasure of being one of the two co-instructors at CUNA’s Sales and Service Culture Institute. One of the questions asked by the majority of the attendees was regarding incentive programs. Should we implement them? How do we implement them? What’s the best way to implement them? How do we make them fair? I guess that’s lots of questions, but you get the idea. My first realization: We’re confused about incentives.

My first question if you’re seriously thinking about implementing incentives is “Why?” Why are you thinking about paying staff to do something that should be in their job descriptions? Recommending the right products at the right time to the right members is in your job descriptions, isn’t it? Maybe? Maybe not? My second realization: We’re confused about what’s in staff job descriptions.

We are quite positive that all supervisors and managers are coaching all staff on the processes taught for recommending products, right? What’s that you say? Branch managers can’t possibly be expected to coach with everything else on their plates? And you don’t really have a process for recommending products, unless we count that little pop-up window that keeps recommending the same credit card to the same members? My third realization: We’re confused about coaching and the processes we use.

Here’s my thought: Before you start throwing money at your staff like clowns throwing candy at a parade, get your ducks in a row:

  1. Be sure the whole credit union is supporting efforts to exceed your members’ needs. There are entire books and classes on creating organizational alignment around goals, so take your time and get some help if necessary.
  2. Figure out what you’d like your member experience to be for every delivery channel and touch-point. Then, make it happen consistently. Not sure what a member experience looks like? Check out a free webinar from CUNA’s Creating Member Loyalty™ for a quick look.
  3. Ensure managers have a repeatable, consistent process for creating a positive employee experience. Clear managers’ plates so they can provide timely coaching to each employee to deliver your desired member experience.

Got all of that done? And done well? If not, I’ll give you about 18-24 months to get that in place. Don’t worry, I’ll wait! I’ve heard that posts like these live forever. Come back when you’re done, and then we can talk more about incentives.

Back so soon? I’m not trying to be flippant. I know this takes a lot of work and a lot of concentrated effort by lots of people in the credit union. And I’d encourage you to do some homework and think about what you’re not seeing now that you’d like to see. Will incentives really get you there? If you’re not sure, drop me a line and we can talk about how to get you there. What have you got to lose? Perhaps we’ll both be confused at a higher level!

Angela Prestil is the Sales Culture Development Director for the Credit Union National Association.

National Press Likes ‘Move Your Money’ to Credit Unions

Posted by on Thursday, 27 May, 2010

The “move your money” campaign generated much excitement among consumers, credit unions — and the press. That’s not news: It’s been going on since December, when the campaign to move deposits from big banks to “community banks” was first outlined on the Huffington Post (and, as a result of demands by readers of HP, eventually extended to credit unions).

Lately, though national press interest in the idea of more consumers moving to credit unions has been spiking. At CUNA, we’ve received inquiries from national media as well as big regional papers. A Newsday feature (in NYC and Long Island) about consumers moving their money to credit unions is just the most recent example. At CUNA, we jump on the opportunities to promote credit unions through all channels.

There is no doubt that consumers have been moving their money to credit unions. Last year, savings grew by 10.3 percent, the biggest one-year increase in at least five years. But are consumers moving with their money? In other words, what’s the membership growth?

More people are, in fact, becoming credit union members: 2009 witnessed more than 1.2 million new members — a 1.4 percent growth rate (to 91.2 million members — now nearly 1 in 4 Americans are CU members). That growth is robust: It outpaces the U.S. population growth by 1.5 times, as well as the growth of the nation’s banking customer base, which largely mirrors the U.S. population growth rate.

But is the 2009 growth rate an anomaly? On its face — not really. In 2008, for example, membership grew by 1.6 percent (the fastest one-year growth over the last half decade), and 2006 growth was 1.4 percent also.

But, CUNA economists suspect there is something more to the numbers (as economists typically do). They point out that indirect lending by auto dealers had been the engine (so to speak) of CU member growth prior to the Great Recession starting in late 2007.

Over the last 18 months or so, car buying has waned with the growth of the economy, which means indirect-lending-member-growth has slowed as well.

Nevertheless, membership grew in 2009, as the numbers show! CUNA’s experts believe that consumers are, in fact, moving their money and their feet to credit unions, even though the numbers were not inflated so much last year by new members through indirect lending.

We don’t have 2010 numbers yet (for 1st quarter), but they should be ready soon. Will there be a corresponding spike in membership? If so, we’ve got another great story to tell to the national press. If not — well, we’ve still got a great story anyway. More to come, no doubt.