Having an industry-leading card portfolio is fundamental to serving credit union members well. However, the member experience you provide extends well beyond the wallet. Rewarding members at every opportunity can help you deliver a more meaningful consumer experience and can play a key role in nurturing member loyalty over the long term.
“Credit unions, by their very charter, are in the loyalty business,” said Jennifer Kerry, Vice President, Credit Card Services, for CO-OP Financial Services. “Members trust their credit union to be fair and equitable, and to care about them in ways that for-profit banks simply don’t.”
Kerry emphasizes that having a superior rewards program is key to delivering on this expectation. “Research shows that 76 percent of shoppers believe loyalty programs are part of their relationships with businesses,” she said. “For credit unions, this means that the quality of your rewards program can make or break the member relationship.”
So Many Ways to Say Thank You
According to Kerry, while card-based rewards are essential to any successful program, they only scratch the surface of what your credit union can offer.
“Points can be awarded across the product line – including any time a member opens a checking account or takes out an auto loan,” she said. “Points can also be given to reward member behaviors your credit union values, such as signing up for e-statements, using online bill pay or maintaining minimum balances in a checking account.”
Kerry advises credit unions to treat every interaction as an opportunity to show appreciation to members.
“Member feedback can be transformative to your organization, and can also be hard to get,” she said. “So, reward members any time they take a survey or comment on their experience in the branch – or even when they report on a service mishap. Their time is valuable, and the effort they put into communicating with you should be recognized and rewarded.”
Another way to engage members, Kerry notes, is to reward them for improving their financial IQ. “The financial health of your members is as valuable to you as it is to them, so offer financial literacy courses, and give members perks and points for completing them,” she said.
Kerry adds that everyone wins when members are encouraged to assist in account security. “You can give members points for something as simple as updating their contact information,” she said. “Even better, incentivize them to use new security technologies, such as tokenized payment options like Apple Pay, and mobile apps for card controls and alerts. Their active role in securing accounts goes a long way toward heading off fraud, benefiting everyone involved.”
Kerry emphasizes that while members appreciate the promotions, gift cards and other perks your program provides, the solution you construct should always allow them to “spend” points with your credit union as well.
“Members should be able to apply points to everything from checking account fees to closing costs on a mortgage,” she said. “Loyalty points should function like digital currency that members can use throughout your credit union to further their relationship with you.”
Success Requires the Magic of Marketing
While having a best-in-class offering is critical to your success, Kerry points to the important role marketing plays as well.
“Feature the program prominently across every channel, from branch signage and ATM splash screens to your website home page, and online and mobile banking apps,” she said. “In addition, enroll all of your employees in the program. Their experiences are powerful, and their enthusiasm will spread quickly throughout your member base.”
Kerry also advises credit unions to market the program on an ongoing basis.
“The most successful credit unions are constantly finding new ways to communicate program benefits to their members,” she said. “For example, you can text members when they have accumulated enough points for a dinner out at a popular local restaurant. Or, have members establish ‘wish lists’ – and congratulate them as they earn and redeem points for the items and experiences they value the most.”
She added, “Don’t forget to reward members just for being loyal. Every time they reach a milestone – such as the 10-year anniversary of their membership – thank them in the branch, at the ATM, and with a personalized note or e-mail. And, of course, shower them with points.”
She continued, “These programs work best when credit unions get creative and make them fun for members. Ultimately, your goal is for members to feel like their relationship with you is more than appreciated – that it is celebrated by your credit union.”
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