Friday, April 20, 2007

To Call or Not to Call—members, will you answer?

Recently, Ron Shevlin cited Joe’s post, The Dilemma of the Service Call. In his post, Mr. Shevlin commented that Verity’s approach (as described in Joe’s post) is wrong and “representative of what goes on in many banks and credit unions.” You can read the entire post here; the following is an excerpt of his commentary that supports his argument:


So what’s wrong with Verity’s approach?

1) It doesn’t know “the products advantageous for them.” Few consumers have all, let alone a majority of their financial products with one provider. So, in trying to determine what products to offer, a financial provider is at a serious disadvantage — it doesn’t have a complete picture of what any one customer owns and doesn’t own. YOU might think a credit card is “advantageous” for someone, but what you don’t know is that she already has five cards — and resents you calling to sell her something she doesn’t “need.”

2) The timing is all wrong. Yes, I’ve seen the BAI study that says 95% (or whatever) of all additional products are cross-sold in the first six months after a new account is opened. But nobody ever asks why that’s the case. I’ll tell you — because that’s the window in which the customer is still in the honeymoon period, and their bank (or credit union) hasn’t done enough to piss them off yet. But the reality of the matter is that it’s incredibly unlikely that someone’s financial situation has changed that much one month after opening a particular account (which is when Verity is making its second call). If you were to call me a month after I opened an account and tried to pitch another, I’d ask you why your firm was so incompetent as to NOT tell me about this a month ago.



We’d like to open this discussion up to our members and get your thoughts.

Do you like a follow-up call to make sure that you got your debit card, to answer any questions you might have, or just to make contact after the 1st 60 days after you first meet us?

Or, do you not like a follow-up call? Would you rather we hang up (pun intended) the idea of follow-up calls altogether? What do you expect from your relationship with your credit union?

Tell us—we really want to know.

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Ron Shevlin said...

I think you're mis-characterizing my criticism. I don't think it's wrong to call a week after the account is opened to ensure everything's OK.

What's wrong is calling a month after the account was opened to cross-sell additional products under the guise "we know what products are advantageous for the member." (and you've reprinted my reasons why, thanks)

I think you will improve your cross-sell (i.e., relationship-building) success by engaging your members in an ongoing dialogue (like you're doing with this site) than by copying the (mostly unsuccessful) tactics of the big banks.

BTW, you might be interested in looking at the results of the Ponemon Institute's Privacy Trust study that found that "aggressive advertising and promotion tactics" was the 2nd most negative factor eroding consumers' trust in a bank's ability to protect the privacy of their data.

Fri Apr 20, 10:32:00 AM PDT  
Blogger shari storm said...

Ron – thanks for joining the conversation. I’ve ‘lurked’ on your blog for a bit now and think highly of it.

I can understand why you would pick up on this post. The theory of the on-boarding follow up calls is an interesting one.

To be honest, this is an experiment for us. In the past, we had no follow up, once an account was opened (which is a little embarrassing, really). We started making follow up phone calls about one year ago. I realize Joe’s post could lead you to believe otherwise, but we do have the member’s best interest in mind when we make these calls. Often, the account opening process takes enough time that it is difficult to share with a member all products or services that might benefit them. Often, we have new pricing promotions that a member can benefit from. And, sometimes, the member has expressed interest in a service, but has not taken advantage of it (like Bill Pay or investment services). We have had anecdotal feedback that members appreciate when we offer to set Bill Pay up for them or schedule the appointment with the Investment Advisors.

Believe me, Verity does not have a culture of aggressive advertising and promotion tactics. If you met the folks that make these follow up calls, you would know that. I will certainly find the study you referenced. I am sure we can learn something from it.

Our account penetration numbers indicate that the follow-up phone calls are making a difference. We are tracking number of accounts opened per member in the first 90 days and we have seen an increase of almost 50 basis points in that ratio.

Having said all that, your post has made me stop and think about the second follow up call. Perhaps we do not need to make an additional call. I hope members weigh in on this. I would love to know what they think.


Thanks again.

Fri Apr 20, 02:53:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Speaking as a member of two other credit unions, and not in any official capacity :) -- the first week call is a nice touch, and if you notice that I said I was interested in something and haven't done it, that might be cool. (You might even get to hear that Bill Payer was too complicated, investment people hard to get ahold of, etc.)

OTOH, calling again, later, to remind me of your products? Not so much. And if my husband was the one answering the phone? He'd probably tell you very firmly to put us on your do-not-call list. (If it had been a bad day....)

Then again, we are Mr. & Ms. Cranky, and I hate using the phone.

I know it's tricky balancing between those people who find it genuinely helpful and those of us who are suspicious of your motives. I appreciate the unusual spot it puts you in, and I think it's very cool that you're having this conversation in public!

Fri Apr 20, 03:22:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Paul M said...

As a Relationship Manager at Verity CU, I am very close to these service/sales calls that are the topic of this discussion. And as much as my title of 'Relationship Manager' may deserve a blog entry of its own to explain, I think the emphasis on Relationship is a strong indicator of what lies at the root of everything we do.

Ron makes a number of excellent points and writes to present his perspective very well. One of the things that stuck with me from Ron’s blog was the emphasis of service meaning different things to different folks. I always liken this argument to Red Robin. Some folks seek speed and accuracy in satisfying their burger and steak fries craving. Others will base their experience on how friendly and attentive the wait staff may be. I rate the quality of my Red Robin visit by the response time of the bottomless drink refills.

I think that the service/sales calls made 2 weeks and 1 month after opening an account at Verity CU helps to strengthen our relationship with those members that appreciate the attentiveness. It sounds like everyone recognizes the value of the 2 week call as a service check-in. And yet suddenly the call at 1 month is more of an intrusion? While there is a component to each call of increasing account/relationship penetration, there is a strong service reason to each call as well. Even at the 1 month mark, there is a great reason to follow up with the member. Did you receive your first statement? Did you have any questions from that statement? There may be direct deposit, bill payer or CD/investment issues that take more time to develop and can be addressed during this call.

In the end, I think each call does a great job of connecting with those members that appreciate the attentiveness. Also, it helps build member confidence that Verity CU has their best interests at heart. This program helps reach a segment of our membership that was previously ignored – which I see as a big step in the right direction.

Fri Apr 20, 04:43:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Ron Bensley, Jr. said...

Shari: Per my earlier comment to Joe's original post: Well-done, low-key, non-pushy follow-up calls such as Joe described can be a very nice touch to developing member relationships. I'll be interested to see how Verity's members respond.

Sat Apr 21, 07:15:00 PM PDT  
Blogger shari storm said...

Paul - thanks for the comment. I like any analogy to Red Robin, 'cuz I love Red Robin. For me, it's how well they are set up to handle little kids!

I think you are right, good service lies only in the eye of the customer.

Tue Apr 24, 12:49:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Tim A said...

I’ve been in the financial services industry for many years but I’m relatively new to the CU movement. I started as a bank teller when we were still “tellers” and worked my way up. On the way up we began the transition from a service industry to a sales culture. Note, I did not say sales and service, I said sales. For a time my official title was Sales Associate of all things, if that doesn’t scare people off at the start it does when you call them on the phone.



Over the years I was part of the banking industry while the pendulum swung from sales to service and back again, never finding the middle ground that would allow us to grow our customer base much. The reason was that either we were focused on servicing those customers we already had or marketing to new ones. There were two distinct chains of command for Sales people and Service people and we each had our own goals even though we worked in the same offices.



While finding balance between the two cultures has taken banks years of experimentation (some still don’t have it down) Verity’s initial dip into this pool has been more of a slow ripple than the tidal wave approach that a commercial bank typically use. I will concede that some of the techniques, like the second follow up call, may be an annoyance to some; however, the overall idea behind the calls is the important point.



Joe missed the point and I believe that Shari touched on it but it’s probably the most important point of all and eventually will change the way we do business again.



The positions at Verity that deal with sales and follow up calls are “Relationship” Managers and “Relationship” Associates, not “Sales” the distinction is important. While increased sales are an important part of it, the result of those relationships is vitally important to our growth. Building strong relationships with our member base is what helps any credit union, or commercial business, to grow.



As our credit union grows those members who have been with us and are loyal because of those relationships benefit through better pricing and more services. As our relationship managers and associates continue to grow and develop in their positions we will see a long term benefit and not just the initial account penetration numbers. Our approach is not one of churn and burn but actually getting to know the members when they come in, not only to open their membership, but on their visits to the branch as well. We do have goals; however, the quality and not the quantity is the focus.



As an Operations Manager I don’t consider myself a sales person; however, I consider it the primary function of every position in my branch build relationships with our members. While we may not see members every day we see some often enough that we take a personal interest in how they are doing. We want to make sure that if they need help with something they are comfortable asking for it from Verity.



For those members that I’ve established a rapport with on their visit to the branch I may not wait that the extra month to call again or I may not make the call, it’s really up to them. I prefer to ask the member for a contact schedule, if they are open to it I will make the calls as requested and perhaps even follow up with a personnel note thanking them for the opportunity to serve.



By focusing on the relationship and letting the member know that we value their business we generate not only good will but the opportunity to serve in the future. Those future opportunities generally lead to additional sales and help us to deepen the relationship. We as an organization may be new to the sales and service culture but our overall approach is headed in the right direction.

Mon Apr 30, 10:25:00 AM PDT  

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