Understanding the Member Perspective: An Experiment

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It’s easy to become complacent or even frustrated when you hear the same story over and over. After you have worked in the financial industry for any amount of time, everything starts to look like a transaction. We take money from people and hold on to it for them. We lend money to people. Markets willing, we even make our own money. It is easy to see everything we do through the lens of our financial systems. As a CUSO, we sometimes forget that it is not only the credit union we are servicing, it’s the members as well. We should always work to make sure we never forget the hands that touch the money.

Take a walk on the other side

At my CUSO, we have a program called “Walking in the Members’ Shoes” which encourages all employees to walk the walk. Each month you pledge to do member activities from checking your balance to signing up for new services or contacting your credit union. As a participant, you can earn points for pledging activities, sharing your experiences, or participating in discussions about other member experiences. This information is then used to improve the services we offer as well as our relationships with our credit unions and their members. After all, we are not just employees, we’re members too. To incentivize staff to participate in this practice of “eating our own dog food,” my company even generously offers bonuses for those interactions.

Working mostly behind the scenes, I feel that I sometimes miss the mark on what our users really experience. I decided to spend an entire month deeply participating in “Walking in the Members’ Shoes” so I could see what our members see, better understand service offerings outside my area of expertise, and to be a smarter member of my own credit union. Each day I made it a point to work through all my pledges and to document at least one experience I had. Every day, I was checking my balance on our mobile app, viewing my statements, and making transfers. All the things I would normally do felt different when I remembered that it is not just me, but millions of other people doing the same things every day.

Working to improve services

One takeaway from this experience was learning a lot about my credit union. There were things I liked and did not like about our software and how my credit union was using it. I was able to give some feedback to my credit union about their product offerings and how they might better serve me as a member. I was able to give direct feedback to my CUSO on how we might improve our software. The biggest thing I learned though was that everything I do every day is going to be seen by a member. My perspective has been reset. Instead of looking at a piece of software that performs a task or completes a transaction, I see it as a member doing something that really matters. It’s not one function of the many my software performs each day, it is the one function that matters to that specific member at that specific time.

What are you doing in your credit union or CUSO to improve member services? How are you working to see things from their perspective and find out what works best for them?

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