BE MORE LIKE A MALL…PLEASE

This post is written by Alia Thorpe, recent Augsburg College graduate, Boom copywriter, and soon to be volunteer in Armenia. We hope all credit union marketers take away something from this.

So, fun fact about me. I decided to switch credit unions recently. I was thinking of going to a bank but honestly, I could do without the fees and I like the nonprofit aspect of credit unions. I’m a millennial that actually knows what a credit union is. I know. Crazy.

The thing is, when it comes down to it, I really don’t care about where my money is so long as it’s safe and accessible. I would use an old- timey safe if money and my apartment building allowed. Also if the safe somehow gave me a debit card. A girl can dream.

Anyway, the main reason I switched from one credit union to another was to keep my money at the same place that my parents do. I’m moving out of the country soon, and I want my money to be easy for them to access if I have some sort of issue. Bada boom, bada bing, time to switch.

I went downtown to the branch of my parent’s credit union (let’s call them Credit Union #2, and the first one I was with Credit Union #1). I was surprised with how easy it went. Everyone was really nice to me and understood that I didn’t want a big hassle and they got that. I’ve never switched banks or credit unions before. They told me it was simple and I could go ahead and use my debit card and be ready to go. Wow, that was easy, I remember thinking. No, Alia. It’s never that easy.

I checked two days later to see if my money had transferred to Credit Union #2. No such luck. Thankfully I hadn’t used my debit card yet. I happened to have cash on me because… well…my mom and I go to bingo a lot.

I checked a couple more days later. Nothing. Alright, let’s call Credit Union #2. Their service was awesome before, and they seemed to understand that I am kind of hasty to get things like this done. They brag about how great their service is. It’s all over their web page after all. Then again, this is the case with every credit union. Their awesome service is what makes them “different.” I really don’t care what makes you different, just give me my money please.

So I called them. Well, I guess I was supposed to call Credit Union #1 about this whole transfer. They told me that chances are that #1 has a block on another institution accessing my money without me clearing it first. That makes sense to me. Like I said, my life experience when it comes to the financial world really is limited. I vaguely remember the people at #2 (yeah, I’ve gotten lazy with this now) telling me that I didn’t need to communicate with #1. That doesn’t really make sense but this world is a funny place. So I got over myself and called them.

Credit Union #1 is not thrilled to hear from me. The service representative is super nice, don’t get me wrong. They just aren’t happy to hear that I’m switching. I get that losing a customer is rough but they act like this is some sort of awkward breakup, asking what they did wrong and if I would give them a second chance. It really isn’t them, it’s me. The rep then wants the entire explanation of why I’m leaving. I don’t think I really owe them an explanation, but I let them know that I’m moving out of the country and need to keep my money where my family is.

“Well, you can add them onto your account so they can have access if you want.”

“No, that’s fine. I just want to switch.”

“Have they considered switching to Credit Union #1?”

“I’m not going to make them do that. I would like my money transferred please.”

Maybe if a certain credit union didn’t get rid of their shared branching, this wouldn’t be an issue. But you did, so I’m bouncing. It’s really not you, I swear. Just release the death grip. It was getting far too personal for me at this point. I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that #1 really does care about their members…to a pretty excessive amount. I shouldn’t feel like leaving my credit union is like breaking up with a needy ex boyfriend.

Reluctantly, Credit Union #1 tells me I never needed to call them and there are no blocks on my account. There shouldn’t have been an issue with the transfer. I should call #2 and let them know that. The service representative at #1 acts as if they expect this behavior from #2 or like this is what I get for trying to switch financial institutions. You’re right. God forbid.

This was beginning to remind me a lot of when I was trying to set up my wifi/log into my account to pay my water bill/deal with fraud on my iTunes account. These places all made me wait for a long time for a response and call back and forth. Generally you don’t expect this from a community based institution.

Back to #2 with a whole new person. I swear every person I talk to on these lines has the same name, or damn near close to it. Janelle? Joselle? Joelle? Janette? You get what I mean. And there’s usually a Karen thrown in. Sorry Karen. I re-explain my situation and start panicking that my sweet, sweet money will never be back in my possession again. It’s not very much but I’ve grown very fond of it.

#2 tells me that I have the option of going to a credit union in the city I live in (nowhere near my new credit union, I know, shame on me) to try out my hand at shared branching there or call this sort of shared branching headquarters (no I am not familiar with it) and hope that they can sort things out over the phone. Naturally I would like to stay

in my apartment where the wine and the air conditioning live so I opted for the latter.

My favorite person I talked to that day was Janelle/Karen who works at the credit union Death Star (Shared Branching Headquarters). She was no nonsense about getting information for me and it was scarily easy to transfer all of my money from #1 to #2. She didn’t ask me any questions other than what she needed to and was pretty brief with me.

To some people customer service means someone that is exceedingly pleasant and chatty. While this can be nice, I really prefer a quick and efficient job. After all, I’m not calling in order to make a new friend (I’m not a sociopath, I promise.) She was then the correct amount of friendly at the end of our conversation, even recommending bands to me that are from the area that I live in and small talking only once it was clear that I had accomplished what I called her to do. Thank you Jarenelle. Bless you.

I know there are worse issues that I could be tackling in the world than a sticky process in switching credit unions. I just challenge people at these institutions to think about what customer service means to them. Think about genuinely helping the customer and keeping them informed but not smothered.

Good customer service is good customer service wherever you may find it. Think about customer service at…the mall of all places. Do you like feeling constantly pestered by the well meaning employee? Do you like being left completely on your own? Is it best for you if when you ask for help, the person leads you right to what you need?

So, what actually makes the customer service at your credit union/ financial institution/pet spa/scooter dealership/etc. different? What ways can people come out without a story so frustrating that it prompts a frazzled happy-hour-anecdote? I urge you all to do a little service soul searching.