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3 posts categorized "March 2012"

March 28, 2012

Attack of the Bloated Mailbox: The USPS Wants More Direct Mail - Should You?


by Ron Daly

We've all heard about the troubles the postal service has faced these last few years. The recently reported loss of $5.1 Billion in 2011 doesn't give one much hope that the ailing institution can survive, but they're not going down without a fight. 

The USPS is making a push to get more merchants involved in direct mail campaigns. They're incentivising the prices for a product called "Every Door Direct Mail". They don't need your name or address - the pieces go to every mailbox in a given zip code. The USPS is hoping to make at least $750 million in revenue...that's roughly 14% of what it lost last year. 

So, what you have is a product that's cluttering up mailboxes for everyone, unsolicited, that's going to generate millions in revenue for an organization billions in the hole.

And where's the consumer in all this? Can they opt-out of mailings they didn't ask for anyway? Do we not have a choice in the matter? 

Now, obviously, I'm biased - for twelve years, I've been preaching a reduction in wasteful paper in every area of the credit union. But even as a consumer, this is disappointing. I could go without a Saturday delivery if it meant not getting a mailbox filled to the brim with coupons I won't use. And yes, "couponing" is a popular hobby, but even those people with shopping carts full of deoderant and beef jerky can't possibly need this many extra coupons...can they? 

Beware of the bloated mailbox. There may not be anything we can do to stop it. 

March 15, 2012

The Pre-GAC Reading Round-Up


It's coming - the Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) kicks off on Sunday, March 18 and everyone is gearing up for a whirlwind week of learning, hill-hiking, happy-houring and hanging out with folks from every side of the credit union sphere. 

The crew here at DigitalMailer always gets excited for GAC because everyone comes to "our neighborhood" (DC and its surrounds) for a few days. Bearing in mind that this might be the first time at GAC for some and the first trip to DC for others, we wanted to pull out a few insightful articles we've seen on Twitter and Facebook this week that are related to GAC.

From CUNAVerse: "Coming to GAC? Get Ready to Work"

The Senate is presently considering a bill that is generously being referred to as a jobs bill. In reality what this legislation does is relax a set of investor protections in the hopes that businesses will use the savings they receive from reduced regulatory compliance to hire new workers.  No one has estimated how many jobs this might create.  Yet, the bill passed the House of Representatives with almost 400 votes, and the Senate is poised to act perhaps as soon as next week.

What better time to have 4,000 credit union advocates in Washington, DC?

For Hill-Hikers, an article from "CEO Interview: Watch For Unintended Consequences"

CEOs can't wait to see what happens. They can't leave it up to the trade associations to handle this with lobbyists. Much of the proposed legislation has good intentions, but lurking is the menace of unintended consequences, which could really hurt credit unions, especially smaller ones.

And again, from "Lobbying Dos And Don'ts"

Even if you are passionate about an issue - and most people who see us are - don't be confrontational. We are dealing with thousands of bills in a short time and sometimes we haven't yet heard of your particular point of view. Expect some back-and-forth, because we want to get to the heart of issues, but don’t be afraid to say you don't know the answer to a question and that you will get back to us about it - you don't want to make up answers or numbers on the spot and end up giving legislators misleading information.

These are all helpful to those brave folks who are determined to go meet their leaders in government and speak on credit unions' behalf. 

For advice a little more on the practical side, keep these tips in mind when in DC: 

  1. COFFEE - An army marches on its caffeine jitters. There's a Starbucks in the Washington Convention Center (where much of GAC takes place) and plenty more coffee shops in Chinatown, which is a short walk away. 
  2. TRANSPORTATION - There are plenty of cabs in DC and they're pretty affordable, but if you want to get adventurous and take the Metro, Gallery Place/Chinatown and Mt. Vernon/7th Street-Convention Center are your stops local to all the action. Go to the Chinatown Metro stop and take the Red Line to Shady Grove, then jump onto the Orange line for the Smithsonian stop if you've got time for sight-seeing. We're assuming you'll be too busy, but if you have an extra day, visiting the Mall and the Smithsonian museums is a great way to spend it.
  3. FOOD - Again, Chinatown has plenty to eat and a little something for every palette, ranging from McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts to La Tasca and Matchbox Pizza (which, for our money, is one of the best pizza/American cuisine restaurants in all of DC). Trust us, you shan't go hungry. 
  4. RUNNING - We know there are a lot of runners in the CU crowd. While DC does have a great many runners in its midst,  the city can be unfriendly to pedestrians of any stripe. Keep your eyes peeled for crabby drivers who wouldn't hit the brakes if their mother was wheeled in front of them in a wheelbarrow full of dynamite. They're out there, so be careful.

    That said, there are some good suggested running routes on This one, in particular, has some lovely views along the way. If you're up for your morning run, hop on the Metro and head toward Farragut North to give this a shot. 

Have you got a good read for "pre-GAC"? Let us know in the comments. 

March 01, 2012

Dealing with Upset Members via Social Networks: One Rule to Rule Them All


by Ron Daly 

One of the biggest arguments for social media that every "social media expert" of the past three years presented was the idea that you could deal with customer complaints via Twitter, Facebook, etc. 

As we've all learned recently, there aren't a lot of people complaining directly to credit unions OR banks about their bad experiences, and when they do seek out their FI, it's usually moved from social media to some other channel that's more conducive to problem-solving (read about it here). 

So, for smaller CUs and banks, complaining customers aren't the biggest threat - it's silence. It's the larger banks and CUs that are going to get noise in the channel. And what then? What are the steps for dealing with an issue via a social network? 

I think this list from Social Media Examiner is pretty helpful, especially their "rule 1": 

You Can’t Respond to Conversations You Don’t See

Now, before we dig into this, let's clear the air - no, there aren't a lot of people out there that talk about their credit union via social media, positively or negatively. Not a LOT. But there are some. Depends on the situation. 

From my own anecdotal research, the Facebook and Twitter accounts of very engaged, community focused credit unions are fairly busy and have plenty of traffic and regular postings by members. Some are happy, some aren't. Some CUs reply to their followers/friends, some don't. But at least someone, somewhere inside that organization, is aware of the situation. 

What happens next is up to the organization and the expectations they've set of their social media manager. Let's work it out: 

  1. A compliment comes in -- Great! Pat yourself on the back or pass the good word along to the proper person in the organization. 
  2. A complaint comes in -- Here's where the difficult part comes in. Is this person a member? Does their complaint deal with customer service, an account issue, or an IT issue? Are they using foul language? Are they just trying to get a rise out of you? Take a breath, then proceed. Oh, and if they're using swears or harmful language, delete their post and politely point them to your policy regarding conduct. Don't have that? Go whip one up with compliance and legal. It's not unreasonable, it's your brand integrity you're protecting. 
  3. A complaint comes in about service -- Contact the member privately to get the specifics. Then, get in touch with the manager of that department so you can find a smart, sane way to address the problem. Reach out to the member again after the complaint's been filed to make sure there are no hard feelings. 
  4. A complaint comes in about an ATM/online banking issue -- Contact IT and see what the problem is. For an ATM issue, speak to that branch's manager and ask about what's being done or needs to be done. 
  5. A complaint comes in about a member's account -- Put that member in touch with a member service rep to get the problem ironed out, then follow up later after the issue is resolved. 

To anyone who skimmed over that list, let me ask you a question: what did you expect? Was social media supposed to be the be-all, end-all, no-muss, no-fuss solution to all life's little problems?

Listening matters. Paying attention to what your competitors are doing matters. Paying attention to your partners and your "peers" matters. And if you only get presented with one problem per month and you solve it? Well, you've solved one problem. Move on to the next one. 

But writing off the capacity to get things done using social media completely? That's a failure not of taste, but of common sense. It's the broken window theory - fix problems when they're small, when they're few. Create a legacy of solving problems with social media, people will know that's a way to get their problems solved. 

And always remember rule 1: ignorance is by no means bliss. It's just a mound of problems you aren't solving.