If you’ve been reading some of my writing, you already know that I’m big into old ‘adages’ and ‘clichés’. This one is pretty obvious – the adage being ‘the icing on the cake’.  A quick investigation into the meaning and background of this phrase confirms what we all think it to mean, something along the lines of:  ‘An additional benefit to something that is already good’.

As a side note, I’m not quite sure why I rely on these old phrases except that I do find them generally to be pretty darn accurate. Usually offered up by older wiser, more experienced folks in various life situations, they tend to be based on a collective body of experience that is truthful, honest and sometimes all too direct.

For example, while writing this article another vision about a similar adage (it involves cake too) comes to mind. I can still see my grandmother saying while sternly looking over her glasses and down her nose at me: “Michael, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” I really have no idea what that means … guess I’ll need to investigate it a bit further.

But let’s get back to the icing on the cake … or rather … the question of having your icing without the cake.

Member Sales (aka ‘The Icing’)

Much of what is discussed in today’s credit union industry news is about cross selling, new product opportunities, whiz-bang marketing approaches and building a world-class sales culture. Not many people seem to be talking about providing better service. Why? Probably because it is not as sexy as that other stuff.

It is understandable that selling more product and service to members becomes a viable and important goal in the practices of most credit unions. But for me, a sale of new products or services to members is the icing. In other words, ‘An additional benefit to something that is already good’.

Member Service (aka ‘The Cake’)

At fiVISION, we’ve always been big believers that members buy product and service based on a combination of factors that includes some part logic and some part emotion. The logical calculation being a question like: Is this a good rate? Does this service save me money?   These are usually pretty easy questions to pose and analyze because the answers are pretty clean and easy to compare.

The emotional calculation processed by your member is just as important but a lot fuzzier. The questions here all boil down to trust: Does this credit union help me? Do they watch out for me? Do I get good service? Is this recommendation convenient for me?

From my perspective, the emotional calculation is overlooked all too often – and that’s too bad given that ‘member service’ is a real strength of most credit unions.

Believe it or not, in today’s world you can still differentiate on service. It may be ‘old fashioned’, but by consistently helping members with the issues that come up during their relationship with you, a level of trust and loyalty is either being created or diminished. If you do a good job you create loyalty – which leads to ‘top of mind’ awareness, openness to your suggestions and maybe, just maybe – they’ll even tell others about you.

Creating Service-driven Member Loyalty

To increase member loyalty through service takes time – but it is something you can start on today! It involves setting up an environment where everyone knows you want to ‘do the right thing’ for the member; staff are empowered to make decisions; and they have the right tools to do the job.

Most credit unions already are doing the first two – they are truly interested in helping members and staff is trusted to do the right thing. The area of opportunity is whether your team has the right tools to do the job in an easy manner.

The idea is to share organizational knowledge about your relationship with the member – and I’m not talking just about the accounts and services they have with you – but more importantly, the ‘soft’ interactions that come up in a relationship. Some examples? A question about an unusual charge on a credit card, a problem with a bill pay item, wanting to send a wire transfer or even just a simple question about one of their accounts.

This stuff is the ‘cake’. And believe me, the icing will be easy to apply and the whole experience will taste a lot better if you do a good job on the cake. Just remember, adages are usually based in wisdom  … and pretty darn accurate.

‘An additional benefit to something that is already good’.