Automation: Great for Processes, Not-So-Great for Member Services

I love automation and streamlining and efficiencies and…well, I could go on and on. Anyone who knows me knows this is true. Oh, and I love commas. But that’s a whole different topic.

I love cutting out the unnecessary anything. The world is saturated with line extensions (like 472 different flavors in the toothpaste aisle), visual clutter, and an endless array of stuff. Not that long ago, I reached a point in my life where I wanted to clear the clutter. My minimalist efforts started with the crap all over my desk at work. After that clean sweep, I quickly moved to my home, where I conducted an extensive purge of things that hadn’t been touched in years. (Thank you, Williams Sonoma, for the part-time job and the 39 pieces of French ceramic bakeware). I ran out of physical items to eliminate. Next up? Wasted time. It needed to go.

How could I do away with unproductive time, particularly in the workday? For many of us, our task saturated days are as overwhelming as the options in the toothpaste aisle mentioned above. When we really examine our to-do lists, we realize many of our daily tasks are redundant. There is so much squandered time to reclaim. Luckily, my manic self loves creating efficiencies! I get a high from finding ways to make things run more smoothly. But while streamlining has done wonders for my productivity, experience has shown me that there’s a danger in trying to automate everything. Some things require more personalized attention.

Take credit unions, for example. Every credit union wants member growth. And while some do an excellent job of onboarding their new people, most aren’t doing anything exceptional. They stick with the same methodical process year after year—an approach I find maddening. Same old same old exhausts me. So many of the things that we are conditioned to do as credit union marketers frustrate me.

Debt consolidation and balance transfers in the 1st quarter. Home improvements and auto loans in spring and summer. Fall? Well, hello—back-to-school and holiday shopping, of course! Don’t forget Skip-A-Pay, Vacation Accounts, and Holiday Clubs. Sigh. Most of these promotions, while important and deserving of a shout out here and there, should really be marketed year-round. Not to everyone, of course, but to those members identified by the magical tools of automation and specific targeting.

When it comes to member growth, I prefer to focus more on the organic potential of current members rather than spending time and energy looking for new ones. These growth opportunities are much less costly, and they create a better experience for the member. If you want to grow and keep your members happy in the process, market your products and services whenever they are relevant to your member—not because a particular season says you should.

To recognize the potential in your core, remember that onboarding isn’t just for members in the first 90 days. Current members who open a new product or opt-in for an additional service represent an incredible opportunity. As soon as that product hits the core, you can start setting expectations for them. Remind them of the product’s features. Remind them how to use it and when to use it. If you are consistently setting high expectations, creating positive member experiences, and effectively communicating the benefits of product or service adoption, everything else will happen naturally. Depth-of-relationship will flourish, single-service households will decline, and member growth will happen because people talk.

What isn’t on the core? What can’t be automated? Creativity and the human element. And yes, I’m familiar with Sophia the Robot, but for now, for all intents and purposes, those factors can’t be replicated. As much as I love automation and efficiency, I also understand the need for human touch. Member experiences matter. In my opinion, they are what this beautiful credit union world is all about. When we can make our members feel valued and relevant, that’s the magic that sets us (credit unions) apart.

Yes, the member experience can be triggered and mapped out, but what about the personal aspect of the in-branch experience? Can you find the same warmth and compassion in an automated welcome message on day three? I think not. Quality interactions require us to resist programmed, methodical thinking and take time to understand individual members and their needs.

Don’t get me wrong. Marketing efforts are still essential. But our time should be focused on branding, establishing a voice, and continually looking for ways to enhance delivery channels and increase communications that communicate the bigger picture of your credit union—the one that recognizes how special every member really is.

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