Your Policies Are Powerful Messages

Recently, a glitch in my direct deposit account at the credit union reminded me of the powerful implied messages that policies deliver. I had set my bill pay up to pay the cable bill the day after a direct deposit was scheduled to arrive in my checking account. At the time this payment was processing, I was in St. Louis and had no Internet access.

What I did realize before hopping on the plane was the deposit had not arrived in my account, and I did not have sufficient funds to cover the transaction. “Rut-roh,” I’m thinking! (I found out later it was a glitch in processing that had nothing to do with the credit union.)

After getting back home Monday evening, I logged back in to the account to check on status of the deposit and the “fee carnage” it had most likely caused. What I found instead shocked me – the credit union had suspended the payment until sufficient funds came into the account, then sent the payment on to the cable folks!

It wasn’t their fault, yet they did all the work … and they didn’t charge me a fee!

The implied message of this experience for me was, “We aren’t going to take advantage of the situation by charging you a fee because we value your membership.”

Contrast this with a friend of mine who got laid off from his job over the summer. He was a customer of a big bank. Their policy was “Since you no longer have direct deposit … you’ll get a $6.50 service charge each month.” Appeals were fruitless. Rules are rules after all.

When you lose your job, the last thing you want to hear about is a bank fee. But in the end, the big bank’s policy wasn’t a problem for my friend. He got the implied message and responded by joining a credit union, so he doesn’t have to worry about it.

So many credit unions are looking for that clever marketing message to connect with people, but a good starting point for many might be to check your member policies. Like it or not, they’re sending powerful messages to your members each and every day.

Marketing messages are mostly helter-skelter … personal experiences resonate. Every time.

My credit union’s message came through loud and clear, as did my friend’s experience with his former bank.

Fees and consumer-unfriendly policies are the reason that many people still distrust banks despite millions of dollars in image advertising.

And no matter what the marketing message du-jour might be at my credit union, their policies are the reason I’ll never leave them.

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6 Responses

  1. Policies are simply a reflection of an organization’s mission. If your goal is simply to make money, you take the approach of the “big bank” you mentioned. If your goal is to take care of your membership, you make sure that front and back office staff have the flexibility to show compassion for your members. This can only be done if the correct policies are in place.

    Diva Deb talks about the motto “If it’s good for the member and good for the credit union, then it’s good to go!” If actualized, what a great concept!

  2. I have found both “Big Banks” and Credit Unions get it right and get it wrong. Many times, a Big Banks policies hinder phone reps from making changes, however, I have found branch managers to be very helpful and able to reverse various fees. I have found some credit unions are really “Big Banks” in disguise.

    But more often than not, because of credit unions philsopy, “member owned”, they are much more flexible than their bank counter parts.

    ChrisCD
    Jumbo CD Investments, Inc.

  3. Matt & Jeff , you’re right on the money with your post & comment! I’m going to go right now and make sure our billpay works that way too.

    About compassion. It seems like a character trait that most people lack these days or at least don’t think about at work. But it makes all the difference in the world when it is exercised there. We just can’t pass judgments on our members and stay true to the CU ideal. And like Gene said on the skeptic blog “it is more important as to what you do than what you say”.

  4. Convoluted policies are very bank like, but many CU’s are forced to adopt them. I’d love to see Cu’s come up with a TOS or member agreement that is one page. That’s it. No legalise, no nonsense.

  5. Thanks, everyone for your feedback. In reflecting on the post, it clicked with me that I expected a fee out of that experience – it’s a shame that we are conditioned to fear the worst from financial institutions these days!

    Thankfully, my credit union took an opportunity for income and instead made it an opportunity for grace. (Of course, they also saved themselves some work in the process, no doubt.)

    It’s not the first time they’ve stepped up when I really needed them.

  6. You are so right!! It’s not what you say – it’s really all about what you do!
    In the long run, wearing the white hat will pay off.

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