Member Onboarding: Be More Than a Good First Date
in Marketing & Communications
By: Bryn C. Conway, CUDE, Principal, BC Consulting, LLC

Acquiring a new member is no easy feat. You spend precious resources trying to convey the value of your credit union to potential members and when they agree to join, you are elated! You dream about all the products and services they’ll buy and how you’ll increase their share of wallet. You are certain that this new member is going to love you for life and that you will be their financial soul mate. But wait, it usually doesn’t work out that way. Members join and you can’t seem to get beyond the basics. They become members for a car loan or a checking account and, regardless of the offers you put in front of them, you can’t get past that first product or service. Bryn Conway, who wil be speaking at our June 11th Business Development Roundtable, suggests we start thinking about member onboarding like you would think about dating. 

You need to get to know your member; they need to get to know you; and then you need to jointly decide that you can build a foundation for a lasting relationship. When a new member joins your organization, remember, they have simply agreed to a first date.

You may have heard someone say “I am a really good first date!” But they rarely have a second or third date and a satisfying relationship has yet to materialize. The goal of the first date is to get the second date, so how is it they get stuck at being a good first date? Simply put, they really aren’t a good first date. If they were, they’d have a second, third and several more dates.

This is true with credit unions and new members, too. Is your credit union a good date? Are you onboarding members to trust you and want to commit to a long-term relationship? Chances are your credit union could improve its dating skills. 

Become a Financial Life Mate: The Do’s and Don’ts

The ultimate goal in dating and onboarding is to make a connection and form a mutually satisfying relationship. Here is a quick list of the do’s and don’ts to be a great date and keep you traveling down the relationship road.

DON’T: Interview

Just as you are likely to send a date running for the nearest exit if you do nothing but grill them with questions on the first date, the same is true with your new members. Don’t ask a first date if they want kids and don’t try to sell your new members every product you have. It’s just too much, too fast. Instead, have a nice conversation. Ask questions to help and build rapport. Set the tone for future communications by starting soft and getting to know each other.

DO: Court and Pursue

Your new member said yes to the first date, and since you asked them to join it’s absolutely your job to pursue them, court them and make them feel special. So, hold the door, pay the check and make the first move. Let them know you are interested and have them leave the first interaction with you feeling wanted, valued and thinking you are a great catch! 

To do this, put a new member communication plan in place that includes a variety of touchpoints and that can be altered as needed. For example, if your new member has not answered the phone for the first two calls, then you should be flexible enough in your process to adjust and send that message via email.

Communicate with new members within the first few days after meeting. Call and say thank you for joining and ask how you can help. Personally invite them to a special event you are having. Send an email to make sure they were able to login to online banking. Then, keep up with it. Court and pursue! A little personal attention goes a long way to building the foundation of trust that is essential to a good relationship.

DON’T: Email or Text Too Much

Sure, email and text can be fun and quick ways to communicate with your date. However, it’s very hard to read the tone, nuances or intent from an email or text message. It’s also difficult to get to know someone you have never met in person. You probably wouldn’t consider it a serious relationship if you’d only exchanged emails or texts with someone. Don’t rely on one type of communication with your members at the beginning of your relationship.

DO: Communicate Often and in a Variety of Ways

There is no replacement for personal interaction. Credit union members want to be communicated with in a variety of ways and they want different communication channels to be used depending on the type of business they are going to conduct.

When asked how they want to transact with their credit union, members often say they are fine using technology-based interactions that do not require an employee to help. Transferring money, getting cash, depositing a check, paying bills­—members are fine with all these transactions being completed using convenience services.

However, when asked how members would prefer to obtain their next product or service, such as a credit card or mortgage, the overwhelming response is that members want to do this face to face in a branch or over the phone. Members want to ask questions, have a conversation and relate to the person who is helping them make a major financial decision. This is true regardless of age, income level or length of membership.

Add variety to your communication channels and content in your member onboarding plan. Call, send written notes, email and invite members to come in and sit down with you, or make an appointment to go to them. Ask them how they prefer to be contacted and honor their requests. Communicate in a variety of ways and do it often. Make personal connections with members and continue to foster that connection throughout your relationship.

DON’T: Wing It

A good date is someone who takes a couple minutes and makes a reservation for dinner and checks the time of the movie. Winging it or just assuming it will all work out sends the message to your date that you didn’t care enough about them to plan ahead. It’s the same with your new members. The member said yes to joining your credit union. Take the time to make a plan for the first date and for the first 90 days of the relationship.

DO: Set Goals

The goal of any first date should be to get the second date. The same is true for member onboarding. If you are going to go through all the time and effort to get a member to join your credit union, don’t let member onboarding be an afterthought. If you do, you’ll be an afterthought for your members’ lifetime of financial decisions.

Set goals for each touchpoint in your member onboarding process and measure every step of the way. Make onboarding part of your monthly performance numbers just as you’d track loans and deposits to goals. Create a line in your dashboards to ensure everyone in your CU understands how important engaged new members are to your organization’s health.

Make onboarding everyone’s job. Calls can be made by your branches or call center as part of the onboarding program. Have employees review the account’s history before launching into the member interaction. For example, if a member opened a checking account with direct deposit in the last month, thank them for the business and ask if they are interested in downloading the mobile app. Make onboarding goals part of everyone’s job to ensure you keep building the relationship.

DON’T: Overpromise

There is nothing worse than showing up to a restaurant looking for your date, only to find the picture you saw online was clearly taken 15 years ago. This deception sets you up for failure. You are who you are, and if you can’t be proud of that, it just conveys to your date you aren’t confident in your own value. The same thing applies to your new members. Be transparent and authentic.

DO: Be Yourself

Your CU has a unique history and personality. Invite your new members to learn your story and help you write the next volume as they become part of your CU family. Help them understand who your CU is, what you believe and who you aspire to be.

Chemistry in relationships happens because couples find commonalities in their beliefs. Your onboarding plan starts from the very first interaction whether in your branches, at community events or online. It continues with every touchpoint that shapes your new members’ experience. Share your core purpose, mission, vision and values at every turn. Don’t be afraid to pull a product offering out of the new member onboarding sequence to, instead, send a note outlining your commitment to the community or your passion for financial education.

Onboarding is all about new members feeling they belong with you and that they are part of something greater than just a checking account or a car loan. Be yourself and constantly communicate what makes you different to your new members and long-time members alike.