1fab427bdebb03f411758a3234c6b84ba5446764_m (1)I had the pleasure to speak at and attend THINK 11, a conference focused on the Credit Union industry, underwritten by CO-OP Financial Services. The Credit Union space is fascinating because they have such an amazing opportunity to grab market share from the bailed-out banks and anything that’s affiliated with Wall Street. Credit Unions are organic social networks, a perfect match to tap into the current wave of social networking.

The window of opportunity is wide open. Credit Unions need to jump now to grab this opportunity and take advantage of it. Here are the first 5 steps to make it happen:

Simplify and streamline

Think about Apple and Virgin America. They have done well building a core product and then expand from there. Why not offering your customers a single account? These days, most banking customers are inundated with separate services and numerous account numbers. My family alone has 5 different bank accounts, one mortgage, 2 savings accounts and 5 investment accounts. Why not offer as an innovation the elimination of account numbers and offering a user-defined name instead. Give members the opportunity to add services through that user-defined identity. Give them just one phone number to get help, one site, one path to get what they want.

It’s about the members. Not your yearly goals.

Go to your Credit Union website. See it through the eyes of your members. Do you have to wade through banner ads and promotions to get things done? Imagine you try to get money of the ATM machine and you have to watch 2 commercials before being able to type in your PIN. Annoying, right?

That’s how many Credit Union sites feel. Or the applications and forms people have to fill out. They are just not customer-friendly and adjusted to the changing needs of your members.

You know why Amazon is so successful? No, it’s not the Kindle, it’s not the shipping, it’s not the site. It’s the 1-click purchase option. No need to type in your information over and over again. One click and you can get on with your life. How you can implement this 1-click thinking into your customer experience?

Make it easy for your members to evangelize your Credit Union

Once you create a streamlined customer experience, make it easy for members to share their delightful experience. Integrate customer referral links in their transactional path. Allow people to share these links on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn and help them to become new members by offering an affiliate fee.

When you launch your next mobile app, make it an event. Let only 100 VIP members download it at first and then roll out functionality all members in stages. This is very common in the world of emerging technologies and get people excited about the new gadget. Allow them share their app experience.

Create a holistic approach to finance

Check out Mint. Customers can get an holistic overview of their financial situation, they can see all their accounts regardless of their institution, including the value of their homes, cars and other assets. In addition, you can set-up budgets and create a financial future.

Credit Unions should develop sites that offer much more: How about a site that only has a few links: Income, Liabilities and assets. No annoying ads or other up-sell tactics. Just a tool that tells members how their money is performing. Why wouldn’t they move all their accounts to your Credit Union? And, can you develop a partnership with tax-preparing companies to estimate tax liabilities and help members to better budget for the rest of the year? Make it easy to access and allow user to dive deep into analytic various analytic tools once members are interested.

Focus on interactions, not transactions.

When you talk to your members, are you focused on the transaction or the interaction? A transaction encounter is one where you’re going through the motions to get the task or the discourse done. Interaction occurs when two people ar engaged in a dialogue or actively participating in the process.

Think about the last time you talked to sales clerk: Was he just focused on selling you stuff or was he friendly, knowledgeable and quick? Did he show interest, assistance and interaction in helping you? Consumers remember interactions, they tend to forget transactions quickly. If your staff focuses on transactions, they tend to treat the conversation in a matter-of-fact, the conversation is treated like a call center script and the overarching message is :”I don’t have time for you.”

Credit Unions need to foster an interactional culture: Authentic interaction is heartfelt and comes from a place of caring and wanting to be of service or making a difference. It’s about leaving the other person feeling glad they had the interaction with you.

National Campaign? Why not a local campaign?

A national campaign to communicate the benefits of Credit Unions would be brilliant. But, why wait for it? Why wait for the big campaign when you can develop your own, local campaign?

Partner up with local business and tap into the movement to stay local. More and more Americans are concerned about their community and want to do anything to make it flourish. Build a collaborative community, develop closer ties to the business community, partner with other local Credit Unions and be the leader of “Going local”.

The opportunity for Credit Unions is immense. Let’s get to work.