Stop Making It So Hard for People To Do Business With You!

“Why aren’t we growing?” Frustrated credit union leaders ask me this question when they’re trying to figure out why growth numbers are falling short. They’re proud of the fact that they’re leading a small not-for-profit financial cooperative, and they can’t see why anyone would choose a different banking option. They usually follow their first question with something like, “Why would someone do business with Wells Fargo instead of us? I just don’t get it.”

I do. As much as I try to support independent, locally owned businesses first, sometimes they make it virtually impossible to do business with them. How so? Let me share an example. We recently decided to celebrate one of our team member’s birthday by treating #teamymc to a taco lunch. As we were scrolling through a variety of restaurant options, we came across a local taco joint with a remarkable story.

After immigrating to the United States several years ago, the taco shop’s owner supported his family by working for a successful restauranteur. As he worked his way up in the kitchen, he would treat his coworkers to tacos made using his family’s recipe. The tacos were so delicious that the restaurant owner decided to open a taco joint with this gentleman. After years of sweat equity, the man was given the opportunity to run his very own restaurant, one that bears his name and features his family’s recipe. The American Dream. A success story. Kind of.

Delicious tacos and a chance to support an inspirational local business owner? Yes, please! We were excited to place our order and get a taste of the family recipes that made this restaurant so special—until we experienced some surprisingly poor customer service. When we noticed several pieces of our lunch order were missing, we called to let the restaurant know about the mistake. Unfortunately, the person on the other end of the phone didn’t seem all that interested in making it right. Instead, they said, “Hang on” and disconnected the call. Our second call went right to voicemail. We even made a personal visit to the restaurant to give them a chance to resolve the issue, but this approach was equally unsuccessful.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “That would never happen at my credit union.” You may be right. But before you make that declaration, are you sure? Just this week I received a note from a friend and local business owner. His note read, “FYI…I went into a credit union Monday morning to open a business account. Guy came out from behind the counter and gave me the list of paperwork I would need. He went on to say that Mondays are really busy and asked if I could come back later in the week to open the account.” A lead that cost this credit union nothing, since it was a referral, was lost forever.

If this scenario happened once, how many other times has it happened? After looking at the call report for this credit union in light of my friend’s experience, the credit union’s steady history of negative member growth makes sense. And while I understand why the decline is happening, I also wonder how much time they spend trying to figure out why people would rather do business with Wells Fargo instead of a local not-for-profit financial cooperative. Being part of a member-owned financial institution seems like a no brainer—unless they make it nearly impossible to do business with them.

It doesn’t matter what your mission and vision statement say. It doesn’t matter how much money you allocate to marketing. What matters is that you and your team understand you have to earn every opportunity to serve people. Invest the time to make sure your frontline team knows the importance of putting members first and serving them well. A credit union that goes above and beyond to make every member feel special, that’s an organization people will find it easy to do business with!

From strat plans to rebrands, YMC President and CEO, Bo, is passionate about helping financial institutions come up with a winning formula. If you’re ready to go beyond the SWOT, you can email him at

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