I needed a couple of suits for travel/road trips. Inexpensive yet durable, that could handle dirty airplanes but, if damaged, would be “easy” to replace. I bought two suits from a factory outlet store. In the grand scheme of suit purchases, this was an inexpensive buy. I wasn’t breaking the bank on bespoke suits from Savile Row.
There is another point to share. I really liked a particular gray suit, but they didn’t have it in my size. The sales person asked whether it was okay for her to call to let me know when/if one turned up in their store shipments. I said yes. She took note of my phone number and address, bagged up my purchases, and off I went.
￼In about a week I received a handwritten thank you note that included the salesperson’s business card and a discount coupon. About two week’s later I received a call letting me know a grey suit in my size had arrived at the store.
I’ve bought suits before. I have a couple of really nice ones that I like a lot. I can’t remember where I got them. Sure, I remember the brands because they are sewn in, but I can’t remember the experience, the store, the people. Where those suits came from remains a mystery. By contrast, I’ll remember this store … this experience. I will go back the next time I need a suit.
Compare that experience to a car purchase my wife and I made last fall. We spent (and continue to spend) WAY more on the car than I did on those suits. I’m still waiting on the thank you. I’m still waiting on the follow-up. I’m still waiting for these vendors, the dealer and credit union both, to engage in the little things that will make me remember them the next time I need to buy a car. Still. Waiting.
People, members, remember the little things. They remember the “friendliness” of staff. They remember thank you notes, especially if tied to other notable events. The purchase of a car or home, the opening of a first retirement account, the receipt of a first credit card or debit card. What great moments to thank members, to cement in their minds that you appreciate them and their business. To say thank you, at such moments, will make them remember you.
Now, I know that the thank you note I received was sales-driven. It had a coupon in it after all. Regardless of its sales-oriented purpose, I still consider it impactful. It was a handwritten note written in response to a rather small purchase. I appreciated the time it took to write the note, I appreciated the connection they were making between what their store offered and my own personal interests, and I appreciated that they followed up on their commitments in, in this day and age, a rather unique way. I also appreciated the offer of a discount.
I can’t help but believe that the expression of member appreciation should be an element of credit union growth strategy. Consider this: 49% of all credit unions shrank in membership over the first quarter of this year, and many others struggled to maintain even minimal levels of growth. Perhaps simple thank you notes, small though the gesture may be, is but one thing a credit union can use to help members remember the credit union above deep-pocketed competitors the next time a financial need arises.
If a factory outlet store can do it, with margins perhaps even tighter than those in the banking community, certainly we can too.
Originally published June 26, 2013 on CUinsight.com.