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April 10, 2013

Let's cut down the theme song and get to the bar.

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by Ron Daly

I used to love watching Cheers. A funny show with a great cast, Cheers lasted through eleven season, a female lead change (are you a Diane fan or a Rebecca fan?) and thousands of shouts of "NORM!"

Sometime in the middle of its run, Cheers cut down its theme song and opening credits ("Where Everybody Knows Your Name" is stuck in your head now, isn't it?) to get to the show faster. Why waste time? Squeeze in more show, a few more jokes, a couple more beers - don't bother with the song we all know the words to anyway. Get to the point. 

I bring it up because I just read a bit of ON Innovation by author Terry Jones. In it, he talks about how the nature of gathering information has changed. Customers are walking into buying situations with a heaping helping of information and prep. From the book: 

My realtor friend told me the other day, there is no such thing as a "First Showing" of a house anymore. "Every showing is a second showing as all my customers have whittled their list down online and have seen every house already!"

Customers no longer need you for information, they need you for advice! "Actually sir, this color looks better on you", "I drove this model for three months and got about 21 mpg, so that is what you can really expect".

Interesting. As information becomes more and more accessible, people spend more time reading and researching major purchases. It theorhetically makes a sale easier. Theorhetically.

But as a person who sells things and a veteran of the CU industry, I have to wonder about how effective "more information" really is.

Let's say I'm looking into a product. For argument's sake, let's say it's a power washer. I start by searching online for "power washers". It goes from there to Amazon, then to home improvement store websites. I look at reviews ("stars", average prices, write-ups, etc.) and then I check out prices across all the websites I've visited. If I can find any, I'll grab a coupon or two. If I'm convinced, I'll buy online. If I need to look at the whole affair in person, I'll head to the stores. I make my purchase, start power washing everything and, pretty soon, my house is sparkly clean. And my neighbor's house. And his boat. Okay, so I got carried away. 

But that's an item. That's not a credit union. 

If I'm shopping for a car loan, how do I make a choice? Is it anything more than rate? If I'm out hunting, can I read reviews of the bank or credit union I'm using? Do I start with my current lender and work my way out? Can I go "kick the tires"? And how much information can I really gather?

I take three notes away from this: 

  1. "The Best Foot Forward Approach" - Is the information people are collecting to make a purchase/account opening decision the most useful information? And how do you determine that? Getting feedback on the lending process is a great idea. Talking with members, making notes, figuring out where the hard-to-understand ideas are - that helps prevent confusion in further one-on-one advising situations. And speaking of "advising"...
  2. "What's Your Take?" - Are tellers and MSRs familiar with the experiences that drive a member's questions? How familiar are mortgage specialists with buying a home? Have they purchased one of their own? Experience is a great teacher and opinion does matter.
  3. "Tow the Line" - Is everyone in the organization on the same page when it comes to answering questions? Do they have all the most important information at hand? If they can't answer a question right away, how quickly can they get that answer to the member? Good training and a dash of technology can assure that members can get the right answer from anyone at any time and that a qualified representative can answer any lingering questions. 

So, no, don't bother with the full theme song. Get to the good stuff - answered questions, thoughtful advice and opinion, and, eventually, the deal.

And if making your way in the world today takes everything you've got, well...you oughta go where everybody knows your name.

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