Interview: San Francisco Fire Credit Union Takes Member Loyalty to Heart


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In a prior post I discussed the impact that focusing on the customer has had on the Credit Union business and specifically highlighted San Francisco

Credit Union’s ability to drive growth with little or no investment in advertising. I recently had the opportunity to collect more insights from Diana Dykstra, President and CEO of San Francisco Fire Credit Union. Diana is a self-proclaimed Net Promoter zealot and in my opinion, her organization is a poster child for how to listen to customers and make changes to improve the customer experience. With a current NPS of 83%, member growth of 12%, and retention rate of 98% we can all learn something from how they listen to members and empower employees to “do the right thing”. Enjoy.

1. Can you provide a brief background on the state of member loyalty at your organization? How has it evolved as a result of your Net Promoter program?

I came to SF Fire Credit Union in August 2004 and quickly noticed that we needed to improve our relationship with our members. Complaints were a daily/hourly event and it needed to change and fast! I had begun using NPS (at my former credit union) in December of 2003 when I read the HBR article “The One Number to Grow,” and after years of surveying satisfaction and never really understanding why the number moved, the article made me realize what was missing….member feedback!

Our first NPS was done in October 2004 and we had a member relationship score of 52.63% and today we have moved that score to 77.67%!

What we have experienced is remarkable. Our growth in assets and membership over the past 5 years has significantly outpaced our peers. Member growth last year was 12% — all by word of mouth –while the credit union industry averaged only 1.9%. The real benefit is the retention rate of 98%…happy members stay.

2. What is your organization’s process for soliciting, analyzing, and acting on member feedback? What role does technology play in the process?

We have several feedback channels that are used to gather member feedback. Our most frequent is our transaction survey, which is done weekly and is sent to members that performed a transaction or opened a new service. For the most part, the invitation to respond is done via email but we do also send some paper surveys. Using Satmetrix’s system we get immediate feedback to comments or problems our members are experiencing with our products and/or service, thus allowing us to either provide on-the-spot problem resolution or change processes on the fly that are creating points of pain for our members. (Our latest transaction NPS is 83.35%.)

We have two non-traditional feedback tools that also help with identifying problems and opportunities. First is “Ask Diana,” which allows members to send emails 24/7 that come directly to my BlackBerry (which I am very addicted to!). As the CEO it is difficult to completely see or understand the issues are members are faced with. Many of the emails pertain to financial advice or staff compliments but the ones that deal with problems and complaints allow me to see issues at a granular level for which I can effect change. The other is our service guarantee:

“We guarantee courtesy, accuracy and promptness at all times. If we do not meet these standards at any time, please let us know and we will apologize, correct the issue and credit your account $10, with no questions asked.”

The cost is not excessive but again we are able to quickly identify service flaws that we might not be aware of. Daily we receive reports of guarantees paid and if a trend is spotted we are quick to respond.

Lastly, three times per year we perform a random relationship survey via telephone interview. Using cross tabulations we can see what different segments think about the credit union and then, by reviewing the comments and making adjustments, we can improve the loyalty.

The most important factor in our success is that EVERYONE in the credit union is engaged in the process from the Board of Directors down to the newest employee. We all see the feedback and we solicit input on how we can improve and then just get it done!

3. You are focused on listening to your customers and making changes to improve the customer experience. Tell us about some of the programs you’ve implemented as a result of the feedback.

The list is long and wide – some things were simple and others huge, but here are a few:

  • We couldn’t open a branch everywhere someone wanted one so we decided to rebate all ATM surcharges giving members the choice of where they do business
  • Online check deposits (5 years ago) with immediate credit
  • Improved the loan process, but more importantly developed a product where nearly 50% of the members receive a “MoneyLine,” which is a pre-approved limit for secured and unsecured loans that is available to them at any time. To access it, they can either go online, call, or visit a branch and the request is processed immediately.
  • Changed the call center phone tree so that the first thing callers hear is “press 0 to talk to a representative.” While the hold times haven’t changed, member frustration has been eliminated.
  • Expanded call center with our own staff to 7 days a week, 6am to 10pm
  • Many process improvements that members do not actually see, but which have improved their experience
  • Changes in functionality and navigation on website and online banking

4. How does your focus on customers help you differentiate from the big banks?

It doesn’t even compare!! We listen, are nimble, flexible and empower our employees to do the right thing. With what big bank can you email the CEO directly and get a personal response within a few hours if not minutes? What bank has a policy manual that tells employees “just do the right thing” and means it? Our employees do heroic things to assist our members even if it is way outside what a “bank” would do.

Our members know we care, we are authentic and we make positive change.

5. Can you tell us about how your efforts to build loyalty have resulted in improved acquisition?

The biggest thing is that we spend NO dollars on outside marketing. We have experienced 71% asset growth, 52% increase in deposits, 113% in loans and 30% new members.

We have 72 reviews on Yelp with an average of 5 stars and not a day goes by when a new member tells us that they found us on Yelp…..what more can I say?

6. Do you have plans to expand the loyalty program in the future?

We are always looking for ways to enhance the program. We will keep asking the questions, listening and innovating.

7. In your opinion what are the keys to achieving member loyalty in the credit union industry?

100% top down support of the effort. Member loyalty is not limited to member-facing staff. It takes EVERYONE in the credit union to make it work.

Read more about SFFCU’s success. Diana spoke at the Net Promoter Conference.
Read the conference blog on her session

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Deborah Eastman
Deborah has spent her career with a passion for customer success. As the Chief Customer Officer at Satmetrix her responsibilities include thought leadership development, consulting, certification training, and continuous improvement of the Satmetrix experience. She is a frequent speaker and blogger on Net Promoter and Customer Experience.


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