Data-related Lessons from…Estée Lauder?

My first job was with Estée Lauder. Well, my first real job—the 40-hour-a-week, punch-a-time-card, wear-a-uniform kind of job. That’s right, a uniform complete with the mandatory 2.5-inch heels. (Yes, seriously.) Over the course of my career, I’ve had many jobs, but only a select few shaped me significantly. The Estée Lauder job was one of those.

Imagine standing behind a cosmetics counter talking to a woman about her make-up routine and offering suggestions on how she can enhance (or minimize, in some cases) certain aspects of her appearance. Either way, at the end of the experience, you want her to walk away feeling good about herself, about you, and about whatever she (hopefully) purchased. That feeling captures what member experience means to me.

When I first started working for Lauder at the age of 19, I would introduce myself using only my first name. Audra. Just Audra. I was corrected almost immediately (as I am not Cher) by an older woman in the company who said, “Always look someone in the eye, use your full name, and shake their hand firmly when introducing yourself.” It was another valuable lesson, one I’ve carried with me ever since.

I learned quite a few lessons as an Estée Lauder rep, which, by the way, was an experience I loved. Next to bartending, it was one of the best jobs for learning how to interact with people on an intimate level and carry on conversations about personal products. Fast-forward a few years, and now I find myself marketing financial solutions that make people’s financial dreams a reality.

Thankfully, I can draw on my Estée Lauder experience and remember those lessons about how to make a customer feel special. I can recall how it feels to know you’ve made a difference in their day—maybe even their life (Trust me, the right lipstick color can be that empowering), and I can relate it to the work I do today with credit unions and their member experience.

My Lauder experience also taught me to remove the negatives from an interaction as quickly as possible, to listen to the customer’s needs, and present a solution or product that’s right for her. That’s similar to what we want our Member Service Reps or Financial Solutions Specialists to do when they are face-to-face with our members, right?

If we’re going to create an exceptional member experience in our credit unions, we must apply these lessons to how we treat our members. Look them in the eye, introduce ourselves, and give them a warm welcome. But in the age of emails, mobile devices, and online account opening, how do we cut through the digital noise and deliver specialized attention that still conveys the feeling “You are important to me and to our credit union”?

By using data, that’s how. Yep. Cold, boring numbers. Data.

WAIT! I love data! I promise I do. I love it for the sheer fact that you can use it to make members feel special and relevant like they’re part of something really cool. Because, as we all know, there is nothing cooler than belonging to a credit union.

Data. You don’t have to be a huge CU to use it, and you don’t have to have an incredibly tech-savvy data miner working behind the scenes to uncover mountains of information that you can use to onboard members and predict behaviors. You can use basic data and simple applications. You can use it to set the expectations for the member, guide them through new product releases, or show them the benefits of changing how they use a particular product or service. And the best part about using data like this? You can automate it!

For smaller credit unions, automation can be key. All too often, these credit unions lack the motivation to begin using data to set the stage for onboarding or for communicating regularly with their members. For starters, it can seem overwhelming, which makes it difficult to get buy-in from the whole team. But with a little effort, these credit unions can identify a few key trigger points and use those details to automate relevant, personalized emails. From there, the improved member experience will speak for itself.

I believe in the member experience. I believe that when you make every interaction about the member in front of you, good things will happen. When the message is specific to the individual, you will hold their attention and keep them engaged. Member growth and depth-of-relationship increases come from being relevant, looking your member in the eye (or addressing their unique concerns via email), and meeting their specific needs. After all, we are credit unions, and that level of personal focus is what makes us different in the best way.

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