Gen Y and Customer Satisfaction: A Third Opinion

Two items caught my attention last week. The first was an article in CU Times reporting on a survey conducted by MyCUSurvey. The survey reported two significant findings:

1. A negative correlation between the age of credit union members and customer satisfaction, with a 30-point difference in satisfaction ratings between younger members and those over age 65.
2. Members who visit their branch at least once a week demonstrated 10 points higher satisfaction than members who visit a branch less frequently and 14 points higher than members who never visit their local branch.

MyCUSurvey’s founder, Jack Bieder, had this to say about the findings:

“The convenience of Web and mobile banking and other trends are undermining credit union member satisfaction. It’s clear that credit unions need to find a way to attract younger members and get members to visit their branches for a more personalized banking experience in order to cement the member relationship,”

OK, I totally get what Mr. Bieder is saying and I have to admit that I agree with his line of reasoning. But hold on, I then read a blog post from Tim McAlpine from Currency Marketing in response to Mr. Bieder’s comments. Here’s what Tim wrote:

“I agree that credit unions need to find a way to attract younger members, but thinking that getting them to visit a branch will do the trick is exactly the opposite of what young people want. What they want is ‘the convenience of the web and mobile’ that most credit unions simply don’t have!”

While I usually agree with most of what Tim says (how can you not?), I found myself slightly at odds with his response. So then I started thinking a bit more. Did I miss something? Is the solution to increasing customer service as simple as adding mobile banking?

After a little reflection, here’s my (unsolicited) opinion on the matter:

Mr. Bieder made a valid point by saying mobile and web banking are undermining member satisfaction. I thought that statement was a given—without face-to-face personal contact, it is more challenging to cement a relationship, and more difficult to nurture customer satisfaction. It’s not impossible, just more challenging. After all, a one-on-one connection is more effective in nurturing a long-term relationship with consumers, even those with a propensity to live their lives online.

Case in point: just look at the success of Apple—they constantly reign supreme in most customer satisfaction lists. The Apple customer service strategy is a great model for credit unions. This is a company that could easily adopt a 100% online experience, yet they choose not to (i.e. the Apple Stores). Early on, they understood the value of human contact, and were innovators in moving the brand experience beyond the online realm typically occupied by tech companies.

Apple Store, 5th Ave., NYC, 7/12/08 - 12 of 19
Photo by Goodrob13

They’ve rolled out Genius Bars and training labs around the world. Their staff members are Apple evangelists who can look a person in the eyes, answer questions, express their passion and, most importantly, make a human connection. This is what builds customer satisfaction. This is a much deeper and richer experience than simply providing a link to a video with a “purchase now” button.
Photo by Jens Hofman Hansen

Yes, Tim is absolutely correct in suggesting that mobile and web services are crucial for attracting younger members. This should be as basic as offering a checking account and debit card. Unfortunately, as he points out, not many credit unions are investing in the technology needed to compete in the banking space. But this is only one part of the equation. Web and mobile banking must be supported by in-person services. People don’t make an emotional connection with a login screen. They respond to other people.

Credit union staff need to be able to look a member in the eyes and convey passion for what the credit union movement is about. They need to comfort young members who are struggling with rising school loans and credit card debt. They need to be evangelists.

Whether this happens in a traditional branch setting or some other innovative space is yet to be determined. Maybe the next wave of innovation should come not solely in terms of online/mobile access, but in how credit unions engage members in the physical world in support of their mobile products and services (i.e. the Apple Genius Bar model).

We recently released a video report, “Gen Y and Money,” which had a great quote from a 22-year-old credit union member named Cait. Here’s what Cait had to say:

“I use a credit union and I go there a lot, probably like once every two weeks, so I do feel like it’s a nice place to go and see the same people all the time, and it does make me feel good about what I’m doing with my money.”

You can view the video here.

Cait is someone who is completely connected online: she actively tweets, maintains a Facebook presence and has her own blog, yet she enjoys the comfort her credit union branch gives her. I don’t know if she’s a typical Gen Yer, but she’s a typical human being. She responds to personal attention and that’s what drives customer/member satisfaction.

Comments (2)

  1. Thanks for the post, James. Of course, I would have to agree with you and Tim both. I WILL tell you that in doing research for our upcoming keynote focusing on Women (NET) Promoters, what comes up time and time again is the incredible edge credit unions have with “positive” face to face “experiences”. Just the fact that someone at the CU remembers a members name will be the “main” reason for them to give a 10 on NPS! You’re just not going to get that “on line”…at least not yet!

  2. Thanks Roger. Great to hear from you. Yes, face to face interaction is a crucial part of the overall member experience. Mobile products and web access are needed to attract consumers to the credit union movement, but ultimately, personal contact will help CUs avoid becoming a simple commodity provider of financial services.

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