When Members Are In Trouble, Communicate Double

Sean Galli

Member communication can sometimes feel like another thing on your to-do list, especially if you're also juggling multiple big-ticket projects. But in reality, it's one of the the most important things you can do. To illustrate just how important, we'll take a look at none other than James Bond.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge James Bond fan.

There’s a great scene in “Goldfinger” where Bond, strapped to a table as a laser moves ever closer, asks the villainous Auric Goldfinger, “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger responds, “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”

Right now, your members feel like James Bond strapped to the table. They’re wondering how they’ll afford new homes, if inflation will ever stop and how war overseas will affect them. A metaphorical laser is creeping through their minds every day.

It’s your credit union or community bank’s job to send a heroic message to combat their fears! Credit union member communication is never more important than when your members feel they are in trouble.

If you have poor crisis communication (or no member communication at all), you risk looking like the villain instead. And villainous brands aren't likely to survive.

Here’s how to communicate well during five different crises.

Be Transparent in Your Member Communication When You Mess Up

Problem: A major project goes up in smoke, negatively impacting members. For example, people lose the ability to use their debit cards while you’re redoing your core systems.

Solution: Transparency. Own up to the problem, and be clear about solutions. What caused it? How’re you fixing it? Timeline for fixes?

In a consumer survey, 38.8% of consumers said trust was their top reason for liking credit unions. Transparency makes a bad situation into an opportunity to earn member trust.

Prepare For Political Topics With Brand Consistency

Problem: You speak about a political topic (probably on social media), which causes member complaints.

Solution: Brand Consistency. Do the work on the front end. Build your brand and know your audience. This will help you know if and when you need to discuss a political topic.

Honestly, you’ll probably never need to address political topics as a credit union. But if those topics come up, knowing your members will help you craft the right message to appeal to their sensibilities.

Overcommunicate During Natural Disasters

Problem: A natural event causes financial damage or anxiety. Think tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms and yes, pandemics.

Solution: Overcommunicate. You’ve heard the expression, “It’s better to overcommunicate than undercommunicate.” It’s true!

Better.com once again gives us a great example of awful communication. Just yesterday (at time of writing), they fired 3,000 people without telling them. Employees only found out when a severance check hit their accounts.

Don’t blindside your members when they’re already stressed. Repeatedly tell them how you’re helping them survive.

“Read the Room” When Price Tags Rise

Problem: Supply chain issues and inflation cause members to pay hefty prices.

Solution: Read the room. Now’s not the time to carelessly push products, especially if it’s vacation loans or recreational vehicle loans. Members can’t afford those things during an inflationary spiral.

Focus on the ordinary struggles. Is their mortgage too high? Refinancing with you might save them a ton of money. Hit the right note. Market appropriate products as savings opportunities.

Let Member Communication Be Flexible For Personal Matters

Problem: We can’t forget the crises happening to our members every day. Anyone could face financial hardship, for example.

Solution: Flexibility. Train your staff to deliver an awesome member experience. They’ll work on a person-to-person basis and find creative ways to help struggling members. This could mean deferring payments, renegotiating terms or a variety of other options.

It’s important that “people helping people” isn’t just a catchphrase. Flexibility when it comes to member issues shows you live the motto.

All in all, don’t act like the villain. Craft a good message, expect members to thrive and you’ll thrive with them.

Worried your communication makes you look like the villain? Register for an On The Mark Strategies marketing assessment now to figure out what’s gone wrong. We’ll help you have heroic marketing which lowers stress for your members (and you too)!

Sean Galli
Copywriter
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