Are You Going Undercover in Your Credit Union?


One of my guilty pleasures is watching reality television shows like Undercover Boss. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, the premise involves the CEO (or someone high up in the company) going undercover to see firsthand what it’s like to work in their organization. It’s amazing what they find, and one of the most common things you hear employees say is, “corporate just looks at the numbers but does not really understand what’s going on.” This of course makes the CEO rethink how they run things and inspires them to implement changes to make not only working for the company more enjoyable, which in turn benefits the customers. So that had me thinking, how well do you truly know what’s going on with your credit union?

Take time to listen internally

When was the last time you sat down with your staff and listened to how they feel and address any concerns they might have? Providing excellent member service starts with supporting your staff. If your staff is struggling or overwhelmed, they’re not going to be giving your members the best service available. Likewise, your staff may have ideas for how to improve the way the credit union does things, since they’re the ones in the thick of it every day and know what issues they’re coming across.

As your team is the face of the company that members see and work with every day, they would have the most understanding of what members say and want. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. Your members could be raving and saying how much they enjoy being members of your credit union! They could also have suggestions or places where they want the credit union to improve. Be sure though to take the time to listen to your staff to receive that feedback, though.

Reach out to your members

How are you personally getting feedback from your members? It’s not enough to see that member satisfaction is up or down, you need to hear what they’re saying and where their pain points are (or alternatively, what’s really working for them). Bigger corporations tend to do “secret shoppers” to help give them the inside scoop. Surveys work in a very similar way! There are a ton of survey companies that will work with you to give you what you want. Just to list a few there are: Survey Monkey, Survey Gizmo, and Survey Sparrow. (Sensing a theme?) There are a ton of options out there, so be sure to do your research, compare and find which company works best for your needs.

With these survey companies it’ll be beneficial to find ways of reaching out to your members and thanking them for their membership and their recent trip to the credit union. Ask them to tell you about their experience. You would be surprised on what you hear back! This can also be beneficial for your staff if they understand that this is happening and can encourage members to provide feedback with verbal reminders or posters in the lobby while they wait. QR codes that link to the survey should be posted around the branch for easy access. Overall, this will give you a better idea of what’s going on at your credit union from the eyes of the members.

Furthermore, encourage your members to also attend annual meetings. (Need ideas on how? Melissa Fulgenzi has some insight.) This is a great way for them to understand what is happening inside the credit union and gives them that platform to express themselves and where they want to see the credit union in the future.

Take the time to personally appreciate

When was the last time you stopped at a branch and thanked Sally the teller for being a great employee of the credit union? Personally addressing your staff and showing that you truly appreciate them will help boost their morale as they feel appreciated for all that they do. Being in the front line isn’t always easy, and just like everyone, your front-line staff and your back-end staff can have good and bad days. Be sure to let them know that you value them as a person, as well as a team member to the organization.

Being the CEO is more than just looking at numbers on a report, making sure the credit union is running, and that numbers are going up for the next board meeting. It’s also about taking the time to recognize who put you there and who serves those members to ensure your credit union is still here tomorrow. Take a moment and reflect: when’s the last time you’ve truly gone undercover?


  • Leo+Vaulin#1

    November 1, 2021

    Megan, thank you for writing this! What’s a personal example of an idea you wish you could have seen implemented to benefit members?

    • Megan Ernsberger#2

      November 1, 2021

      That’s a good question! I would have liked to seen board meetings more talked about among the members. I don’t think they fully understand that they can attend and give their feedback in person. If it was advertised more then I feel attendance would be greater.

  • James Versaw#3

    November 1, 2021

    Megan – There are two things you mentioned I that really got me thinking:
    1. ‘Providing excellent member service starts with supporting your staff.’
    2. ‘Personally addressing your staff and showing that you truly appreciate them…’

    Direct acknowledgement that isn’t just a thank you goes such a long way for many of us and our teams. I’m not saying stopping by to say, ‘Thanks for helping all those members’. It needs to be personal and specific, ‘I was talking with Mary yesterday and she let me know how much she loves dealing with you when she comes in. Thank you for making that kind of impact on our members’. This is going to drive the members’ experience by providing a great employee experience.

    • Megan Ernsberger#4

      November 1, 2021

      I agree! Everyone likes to be personally recognized and feel that the effort that they put in doesn’t go unrecognized. You will always remember that and strive to keep giving that same experience to everyone that you serve!

  • Chad Stephens#5

    November 9, 2021

    Thank you Megan,

    Insightful and thought provoking article.

    I think of a quote I heard recently “Perception is reality, until proven otherwise” -Unknown.

    As you have outlined in engaging staff and members, this can attack perceptions from multiple angles. The scary element of perceptions is they are uncontrollable if untouched-as the variables of several imaginations (member and staff) can spiral all too quickly. This approach can change perceptions holistically with the intentional efforts you have illustrated.

    Thanks for sharing!


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