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77 posts categorized "Web/Tech"

August 13, 2014

The Hot Swappable Life

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by Ron Daly

A business associate was telling me a crazy story just the other day. He was holding out his credit card to pay for lunch and I noticed it was a shiny, newly-issued card.

"Just get that card?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said, glumly. I was confused.

"Why do you sound so sad about it? You just got a brand new card."

"This is my fourth issue of this card," he said. "Our account information has been compromised four times now."

 You could've knocked me over with a feather. Four times?! He explained that the first time, the card was cloned and used to make several cash withdrawals up and down the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The second time it yielded no charges, but the bank reissued the card to be on the safe side, owing to a hacking attempt they had suffered. The third time the card was issued was because of the Target breach. The fourth was related to another internal breach that occurred recently.

What was so shocking about the most recent reissue, he told me, was how quickly it happened. The card company called his wife on a Friday to tell them about the breach and the reissue. Their cards were deactivated as early as Friday afternoon.

On Sunday morning, there was a knock at their front door. A postal worker (yes, from the Post Office...yes, that Post Office) handed him an envelope. Inside was a new set of cards from the bank.

My original surprise at the number of times their account was compromised was replaced by my surprise at the speed and efficiency exhibited by the issuing bank. Wow, a three day turnaround on new cards? And hand-delivered on a weekend? On a Sunday?

After lunch was over, I checked my messages on my iPhone and saw that some of my apps were due for an update. I noticed one app that I'd updated only a few short days ago. Between that and my friend's "four card monte", I started really thinking about where technology is taking us: toward a hot swappable life.

If you're not familiar with the idea of "Hot Swappable" hardware, think about a USB device. You don't have to unplug or power down your computer to plug in a USB device; you can use it while the computer's still running. Expand that notion to your phone. Your apps don't need the phone to be powered down to upgrade; sometimes, you don't even have to close the app that's being upgraded. 

Bringing those concepts to finance is very interesting to me. Each year, the time between your purchase and the debit being reflected on your account gets shorter and shorter. Card companies are looking to implement Chip-and-PIN as soon as October of next year to improve security. User-to-user money exchanges are becoming more prominent. People are starting to understand the value of data backups.

Your phone gets dropped in a toilet? No worries - just download the contents again from your online account. Your computer gets fried in a lightning storm? Piece of cake - get a new computer and backup from an external disk. Your card information gets compromised? Don't worry, we'll get you some new cards right away. Heck, in another few years, we won't bother mailing new cards. The number will change electronically, instantly.

"Don't slow down. Don't even stop. Keep moving, we'll come through." It's a lofty promise, but I think it's where we're heading. Can you bring that same level of consistency to your members?

Better start thinking about how you can make it happen.

June 09, 2014

Hole in Boat, Version 1.30.19 (Beta)

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by Ron Daly

I'm no Brother Grimm or Mother Goose or any other storyteller by trade, but I do have a little fable I'd love to share. It's about a group of bankers (or "credit-unioneers", in this case) that were sailing a large boat down a river.

The crew all worked very well together, but one day the first mate noticed something was out of the ordinary. For some reason, the ship was lower in the water than it had been the day before. The first mate called the rest of the crew together.

"We've got a problem," he said. "For some reason, the ship is lower in the water than it was a day ago..."

"Nonsense!" cried the helmsman. "This ship is sailing as high and fast as it ever was."

"I don't know...I think we should check for any holes in the boat."

After several hours of deliberation, the crew split up, searched the ship and found the hole. They reconvened on the deck. 

"Well, we need to plug the hole," said the first mate.

"Now, now, let's not get in a big hurry here...that's going to take a lot of time and energy. Do we have what it takes?" said the watchman.

"Yeah, and who's going to pay for all this?" said the helmsman.

"You know, I'm not entirely convinced this is that big of a problem. That hole's been there, what, one whole day and we still haven't sunk?" said the Captain.

The first mate was frustrated. He stomped his feet and huffed and puffed, insisting they had to act on the problem immediately. Finally, he got the crew to (reluctantly) agree to work on the issue. After a few hours of cobbling, they came up with a giant wad of chewing gum. When the gum gave way, they put their heads together yet again and came up with a big bag of corks to plug the hole. When the corks proved too loose, they settled on a broken barrel. They patched up the hole with several planks from the barrel which stopped the water from coming in and grew and shrunk with the other wood on the boat. 

As the crew observed their handy-work and congratulated themselves on a job well done, they noticed something very strange was happening. The sound of loud, rushing water echoed inside the hull. The crew cautiously peeked out of the porthole window and saw a large, rushing waterfall - and noticed they were only seconds away from the edge. With everyone's resources devoted to fixing the hole, there was no navigation, no steering, no planning, no nothing...

And then the ship went over the waterfall.

The End

I 'm pretty sure you get the point. Plugging one "hole" with any given technology only solves that problem. If there's no strategy for electronic users and mobile members, you're going over the falls. Arguing internally about whether or not technological steps forward can be taken or should be taken? That's quibbling. The question that should always be asked: "will this step forward be a step forward for members, too?"

I'll be conducting a webinar on Wednesday, June 11 at 2pm ET in conjunction with CUES. It's called:

Is Your Largest Branch Open for Business?
“eStrategy” for Today’s Financial Institutions

Won't you join us? We'll be talking about all the ways credit unions can enhance their electronic strategy and keep the ship sailing for years to come. Sign up today as a CUES member or register as a guest - the webinar is open to all. I hope to see you there.

May 20, 2014

Blue, Navy Blue

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by Ron Daly

I saw a story on today's CU Watercooler titled "World's Largest Credit Union is Getting Bigger". It would seem that Navy Federal, the biggest dog in the credit union pack, is expanding its reach by another 60 branches nationwide.

From the article:

To keep up with growing membership, which has risen 25 percent since 2012, the credit union is opening 60 new branches across the country by 2016.

And: 

This month, the credit union opened its first “technology concept branch” in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard, marking its 32nd area location.

Yowza. That's a lot of branches, especially when you consider that many banks (and some CU's) are closing branches by the dozen. I did a quick Google search for how many CU's had closed in Q1 of 2014 but didn't find much info. Banks closed 281 branches in Q1, roughing out to about three branches closed every day for three months.

Navy FCU is growing while other institutions are receding. They have the money, the members, and the momentum. I'm sure for a few CU's out there, it might seem like this level of service and growth is unattainable. It might make you feel blue...Navy blue. As blue as you can be.

Don't be! You shouldn't think of your credit union as standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Navy. With $58 billion in assets and this rate of growth, they're by far the largest CU in the world. The average CU has $149 million in assets and typically doesn't serve a group as large in scope as the Department of Defense, all Military branches and their respective families. It's apples and oranges. 

But there are ways of offering Navy Federal-level service to your members. Take a look at this passage from the Washington Post article above:

Instead of traditional teller lines, the 3,300-square-foot [technology concept branch] offers a more interactive experience [...] There are iPads and smartphones on hand to show members how to use the credit union’s mobile apps to make deposits, transfer money and check balances. A kids’ area includes electronic games about financial literacy.

The credit union’s newest members are typically between the ages of 18 and 34, Romano said, adding that they are interested in learning how to use new banking technology.

“When you join, we want to show you all of the different capabilities we have,” Romano said. “It’s sort of like when you buy a car and the [salesman] drives it around the neighborhood and shows you all the features.”

What a stellar idea! Show members first-hand how convenient your virtual branch - the branch you can keep growing, with no regard for real estate prices - really is. Offer them iPads and electronic doo-dads they can play with right there, in the branch, to see how easy they are to use. Give kids games they can play that show the value of the credit union's work. Show people how to use RDC, Online Banking, eStatements...everything. Give them a really good test drive and they'll be much happier.

If you don't have the people-power to get all this done in the first visit, consider using email to fill the gap. Make this discovery process part of the onboarding campaign. Do a great job of educating members on how well the virtual branch works and they won't have to beg you to open 60 new branches...they'll be satisfied with what you've got.

The world of credit union technology is often one of "Me, Too's." You don't have to outspend Navy Federal on branches and advertising to win new members or to keep your current members around. Often, it's as simple as showing them that membership with another CU (or being a customer at a bank) would be very much the same...except for the level of service and care your credit union is willing to provide. Technology gives you a level playing field. Good service gives you an advantage. That's true whether you have three branches or three hundred and ten.

April 18, 2014

Love, e-Merican Style!

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by Ron Daly

Loveemerican

Ahh, love. There's nothing like it in the world. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy goes online to find a new girl, boy meets girl online, boy marries girl online, boy decides it was a doomed relationship from the start and gets divorced online...

Tale as old as time.

"BUT WAIT!" you cry, "You can't get married online, and you certainly can't get divorced online."

Well, I'm here to prove you wrong. Welcome to: 

LOVE, e-MERICAN STYLE! (You can write your own fancy theme music in your head.)

Americans are living their lives online, there's no two ways about it. It takes a certain degree of Internet obsession not only to date online (through eHarmony, Match.com, or any of the dating apps out there), but to get married online. 

There are only a few states in which you can be legally married online, but the posibility exists. A little money, a little wi-fi, an officiant and a Skype-kiss and bing bang boom...you're married. Typically this happens for religious reasons or for troops stationed overseas, but imagine what will happen when the e-Dating set gets hold of this idea. No muss, no fuss, and a heck of a lot cheaper than an actual wedding? It's a great idea. And all your registries can be on Amazon...

So you already took the plunge and it's five years later. The bloom is off the rose. Your once fiery passion you celebrated over the glow of your iPhone has fizzled. What do you do? Well, you already got an online marriage...maybe you need an online divorce.

WeVorce is a San Francisco-based startup that focuses on speeding unhappy couples through the divorce process. Run by a divorced husband/wife couple (no, this isn't The Onion, this is a real company), the goal is to save couples time, money, and the acrimony that often comes with a drawn-out court battle. 

"The average cost of a divorce in this country is $27,000. The average cost of Wevorce is $10,000," according to [Michelle] Crosby[, Founder and CEO]."

WeVorce is already helping couples who are seeking to separate. If Crosby's math is correct and a couple really does get divorced every thirteen seconds in this country, the company will surely see a steady stream of clients in the future.

Tie the Knot? Cut the Knot? Why Not?

I know I'm poking fun, but let me play Devil's Advocate here for just a minute. Let's say you really do want to get married online. If you have witnesses on either end and live where a wedding of that nature can happen, why not? Let's say you want to get divorced but you don't have a ton of money and you don't want to make it a huge production that upsets your family more than needed. Well, why not?

Why not just make it happen online?

It's the drum I've been beating for fourteen years now. If you can make things more efficient and less painful through digital means,  why wouldn't you? Sure, a big, fancy wedding is more fun than an online wedding. But if it's not practical or you don't really want it, why not go online? If you just want to break up and go on with your lives, why not use an online divorce service? If you want to do your banking simply or examine your finances or save your important files, why not use eServices to get it all done?

It's only when we accept that we don't have to have physical contact for these things that we start to overcome our sentimental attachment to the excess associated with them. We get more done and move on with our lives. And that, my friends, is...

LOVE, e-MERICAN STYLE!

January 28, 2014

The State of Credit Unions in 2014, As Predicted by The "Crystal Ball" of Google

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by Ron Daly

Let's face it - Googling stuff is fun. It has been from the very beginning and it's still a hoot.

Sometimes, Google can show you the future. I decided to put Google's "crystal ball" capabilities to the test and see what 2014 had in store for the industry. I simply put

  • "In 2014, credit unions will *"
  • "In 2014, credit unions must *"
  • "In 2014, credit unions should *"

into the search bar and hit return. And voila! all the interesting tidbits about what the industry should focus on this year. Some highlights: 

"[Credit Unions] must focus on enhancing members’ cross-channel experiences, says Belinda Caillouet, chair of the CUNA Technology Council..."

"Charting Your Course Through 2014", creditunionsmagazine.com

Agreed. Members are leaning hard on technology and demanding more channels that work well with one another. That includes mobile apps, online banking and ATM/branch services that all play well together and stay up-to-date and easy-to-use.

"Financial marketers will be accountable for analyzing the real results of content marketing strategies in 2014. Because every channel ultimately affects all of the others, attribution modeling allows marketers to credit a specific ad or touch point along a sales funnel rather than just the last material viewed or clicked."

"Digital Marketing Trends for Banks and Credit Unions in 2014", TheFinancialBrand.com

Yep, right on the money. The technology we're using to sell to members is getting better and we can start making sense of data and offering products and services that make the most sense for each individual member.

“In the next 12 months, mobile will overtake online in terms of number of users. It already has more transactions."

"5 Mobile Trends to Watch in 2014", cutimes.com

I'll be interested to see the outcome of this one. Mobile's a big part of people's lives, but can credit unions rise to that challenge and create great mobile app experiences in the space of a year? A year, mind you, that's already down to eleven months as of Saturday of this week?

"In 2014, the trusted role of banks and credit unions as the collector of funds, provider of loans, processor of payments and advisor of financial relationships will continue to come under fire from non-traditional players including new financial organizations (neobanks), hardware providers, third party payment processors, and mobile app developers that merchants and consumers are using to chip away at the traditional financial services model."

"Top Ten Banking Trends for 2014", bai.org

More sharks in a still-pretty-small tank? This is the moment CUs have been waiting for — the moment to set themselves apart from the upstarts and prove they can be valued, trusted financial partners by offering sensible services and can't-be-beat member interactions.

"To experience loan growth in 2014, credit unions will need to originate significantly more consumer loans to offset the expected declines in mortgage originations."

"Marketing Overview and Data Report", catalyststrategic.org

I'm really curious about what kinds of loans credit unions will be promoting in place of mortgages (assuming they cut back on mortgage promotions, which some won't). Credit cards? Student loans? Where's the "heat" in lending in 2014?

“Looking ahead to 2014, credit unions can expect to see the CFPB expand its fair lending focus,” said Bundy. “The CFPB’s regulatory agenda unmistakably signals that fair lending will be a focal point of new rule making starting in 2014.”

"CUNA Mutual Group Anticipates Broader Regulatory Focus in 2014", cunamutual.com

"...The CFPB has the luxury in 2014 to move on to topics other than mortgages, such as overdraft, prepaid cards, Reg CC disclosures, and debt collection. To keep track of all of it, take advantage of various resources out there—besides NAFCU, and the CFPB, many law firms have compliance blogs and news alerts you can subscribe to for free. Knowledge is power, so grab on!"

"Credit union industry experts: What’s in store for 2014", cuinsight.com

I bundled those together for a reason: the CFPB will be stepping up its game in 2014. Credit unions will need to arm themselves with information, as mentioned in the second story. There are plenty of great resources out there, both free and paid.

Any other big predictions for this year? Leave them in the comments section.

November 22, 2013

Have We Finally Had Enough of "Black Friday"?

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by Ron Daly

Thanksgiving? What's Thanksgiving? I scarcely remember.

The days of slaving over a hot stove to produce the perfect turkey and watching endless hours of football and falling asleep on the couch are gone. Now, it's all about sales.

Black Friday, that long-loved gem of the retail industry, is only a week away. Or is it actually less than a week away? Many stores are choosing to start their "Black Friday" on Thursday evening, so the deals are actually only six days out from now.

Why the bump-up? Because stores want to jump-start the frenzy that is the holiday shopping season, their busiest and most lucrative season of the year. Just like your local soft-rock station wants to start playing Christmas music earlier and earlier each year, stores are trying to get people frothing at the mouth over retail deals. I'd wager it won't be long before we have a "Black November" — an entire month of shopping and scrambling around stores as Halloween costumes get chucked out of major retail chains around October 15 and all the December Holiday decorations go up instead. What a nightmare. 

Maybe I'm not alone in my frustration with the ever-earlier holiday season. Nielsen reports that only 13% of shoppers are going to physical stores on Black Friday this year. There are conflicting reports from other sources, but this Time article corrects the confusion with a simple look at the numbers: while some 30-40% of all shoppers plan to shop on Black Friday (Black Thursday-into-Friday?), very few plan on doing it at a physical location. Most will be shopping online, from the warmth and comfort of home. 

They'll never even have to put down their turkey leg.

Plenty of Hustle, Not So Much Bustle

We've come to the age of "online-first" shopping. People are still snapping up those great deals and printing their coupons and getting the most for their money...they're just doing it from their living room. Why go get mobbed by a bunch of crazy people that are fighting over a toaster oven? Just order it and have it delivered. Amazon Prime pays for itself surprisingly quickly.

Retailers have the wrong idea, spreading the start-point of Black Friday over into Thursday. They should be making those hours smaller and tighter for physical shoppers and have in-store pickup for online shoppers. Now that would be handy - have a table where everything you ordered a few weeks before waits for you – already gift-wrapped, tagged, and ready to go. Then, if you're on your way out and you have an inkling, pick up some last-minute impulse items. That cuts down on labor-hours, upkeep, clean-up, parking frustrations and rowdy crowds.

Look at what stores like GameStop are doing with video game systems - pre-orders preferred and even rewarded with extras, yet the gaming nerds are still allowed to line up on the street. The online shoppers AND the physical shoppers get their just reward, without a lot of eye-gouging and body-blows. Better still, the store knows how many units to order in advance of the release of the product. Maybe that idea scales up easily, maybe it doesn't...but does ruining a bunch of people's Thanksgiving dinner really build excitement anymore?

People are more reliant than ever on the online channel to get things done. That goes for retailers and for credit unions. We can't just wish it was different and that people will like going to physical locations again. We have to meet demand where we find it.

And let me tell you, the only Friday event I care about after Thanksgiving is "Leftovers Day". Turkey sandwiches with stuffing and mashed potatoes, here I come.

October 29, 2013

Today's Not An Anniversary You Really Want to Celebrate.

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by Ron Daly

Torrential rain. Winds up to 115 mph. An estimated $68 billion in damages. Portions of the eastern seaboard still reeling.

It's hard to believe a year has already come and gone since Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey. It's not an anniversary you really want to celebrate but it's an important one to mark. It's a prime example of how credit unions are supposed to be rooted in their communities and how, as a community unto itself, credit unions reach out and help one another.

CUs help members

In the aftermath of the storm, stories came pouring in from New Jersey- and New York-area credit unions re-opening and powering through to help members. Some offered overdraft forgiveness, some offered low-rate loans for repairs; a brave and thoughtful few opened up their branches to those displaced by the storm, giving them a warm place to rest, recharge their portable electronics and get their finances in order for the displacement and for the recovery.

If there's a better example of "the credit union difference" than these community-based institutions offering the kindness and care that members need in a time of crisis, what might it be? Because this is the clearest indication to me of what makes credit unions special — a degree of true empathy. It's an empathy that applies to more than money; it applies to the human condition.

CUs help one another

In the wake of the destruction came the cleanup effort. Some issues were tackled quickly and with the kind of focus and calm needed to keep operations on the rails. Some issues have taken quite a long time to address, and some still go unresolved.

One good example of CUs lending themselves a hand? CUaid.coop, which sprang into action collecting donations from credit unions across the nation. The money got passed along to those credit unions that needed it the most. We started the rebuilding process almost immediately after the destruction took place. How many other industries get money going from company to company that quickly? How many other industries bother?

CUs could always do more

The Edelman Trust Barometer tells us that financial services is the least trusted industry worldwide. What can we do to counteract the skepticism and reticence in members and turn the "trust equation" back in our favor?

Stories like the ones above are a good starting place. Showing members that credit unions really do care about their safety and security goes a long way in building our credibility. But how do you really drive that home?

  1. Be Visible - Before, During, and After — If your service area is under threat, you need to be in communication with members throughout the process. When will branches close? Where should they go with concerns or questions? What should they do if they return home to extensive damage or, worse yet, outright destruction? While you're at it, reach out to disaster planning departments in your city or town and ask how you can contribute, volunteer and improve the conditions of those who get displaced or sheltered.

  2. Make Sure Issues are Well Documented — Did an ATM get destroyed in a tornado or flooded or burned up in a fire? Let members know. Did a branch need extensive repairs? Let members know. Do members that frequent one particular branch or area of service need aid and could that aid be provided by members in other locations? Let members know. Don't skirt the issue, don't "dummy up" - play straight, deal fair, do good.

    Recently,  the University of Michigan Health System encouraged doctors to admit to mistakes and bad calls. Surprisingly, the number malpractice suits went down. Why? Because people prefer a company, or a provider, that doesn't try to cover things up or fudge the facts. They want answers and clear communication. Give it to them.

  3.  Give Members the Tools They Need — Do your members know everything they need to know about direct deposit? If they don't, they might find themselves wanting when payday comes on the heels of a hurricane. Municipal CU learned that the hard way during Sandy and shared their insights. During a weather event, people might be lacking the resources they take for granted - mail stops being a priority, phone lines go down, the home computer might be done for due to electrical surges or fire or flood damage.

    But the chances are good that the members leaving their homes aren't leaving without a mobile device in-hand.

    Give members the tools they need most with your mobile offering. Check balances? That's a gimme. Transfer funds? Simple enough. Find branches and ATMs? Those tools are getting better all the time. Get copies of insurance policies, deeds, medical histories and wills? It's possible right this minute. If you're not offering these essential services, where is your operations budget going, exactly?

We hope that credit unions never have to deal with another "Hurricane Sandy". Unfortunately, we know they will. Here's hoping that they'll keep giving aid and comfort to the members that need it most. Here's hoping they'll keep looking out for each other and lending a hand in the spirit of cooperation and community building. Here's hoping that, when the crucial moment hits and it's time to be there for your members, you'll have given them all the information, attention, tools and time they need to get back on their feet. Here's hoping we can build more trust among our members and use that trust to turn them into lifelong members.

Here's hoping.

September 12, 2013

Introvert Media - What "Private" Social Networks Tell Us About the Future of Online Sharing

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by Ron Daly

It used to be that social media was all anyone talked about in business. "How do you use it? How can you grow an audience? Who should we hire to make it happen?"

With social media came a slew of new issues: people sharing photographs of their credit cards on Twitter (that account still exists, but the heck if I'M going to link to it); people sharing account information of every kind with newly-formed social phishing accounts; employees "over-sharing" or, in some cases, taking pictures of members' feet. And then, there's the marketing component. If there's a new medium out there, there must be some way to work in ads and direct sales/customer support, right? 

I don't know if that's true with the offspring of social media - introvert media.

Now, I know - there are nuances to what makes an introvert and an extrovert. I've been around a Myers-Briggs test before - I got a B+ (that's a joke, for any uptight psychologists reading this). But if social media is a more ideal environment for extroverts (lots of sharing, big crowds a must, plenty of feedback) then this new wave of private, shut-off social networks has got to be a big blessing for introverts (small crowds, not a lot of hubbub, not "open").

Take Snapchat, for instance. If you've never come across Snapchat before, ask your local teenager about it - they're likely to have it on their smartphone and use it to send pictures of God-knows-what to their friends. The idea behind Snapchat is pretty simple - take a picture, share with a friend, and a few seconds after they open it, the picture is deleted from their phone and from yours. Snapchat's programmers swear they can't see the pictures and that any attempt to screen-grab shared pictures alerts the photographer that the recipient tried to save the image. The entire point of Snapchat, according to their website, is to "share a moment". Users take pictures, send them to other users, and the pictures vanish. All that remains - at least according to Snapchat's privacy policy - is the memory.

Celly, a service that sends out mass text messages to registered users and is entirely closed off to advertisers and outsiders, is a favorite of plenty of people who are looking to stay in touch...from school systems to small businesses to protest groups. Similar functionality, but built for very small groups with phone access. The app now processes 550 million texts every month to members in 20,000 different groups. It's got nothing on Twitter's size...but it's not supposed to.

Want a better way to talk to your neighbors without having to...you know, actually talk to them? Nextdoor is Facebook for your block association. Users have to register their home addresses and verify they actually live in the community. It's a social network that's only a few "yards" wide.

I went poking around, trying to find an introvert network for people who want to better manage their finances. But let's face it, if you're managing your household's finances, you only want a few people involved in the discussion. Where does it start? What does a network that facilitates private, productive discussions about money look like? Who gets an invite? 

We've wrestled with this a lot in the creation and further development of My Virtual StrongBox. Forget about storage services that sit on your desktop and gobble up your many files and documents for sharing. My Virtual StrongBox is just for you and keeps your information safe and sound behind your online banking. Sure, you can share things with people (with a link that expires after a certain time/number of clicks), and they can send documents to your box if you need them to. But it's not meant to be a catchall - it's meant to be a private place. With all the movement toward introvert media, we see a growing need (as does Barclays, by the way) to present options that keep communications - and communicators - private.

In a world that's getting used to sharing everything, the real show-stoppers will be those that can keep a secret.

Are you getting into "Introvert Media"? Tell us about it in the comments.

March 20, 2013

eManners: What Does "Polite" Look Like Nowadays?

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by Ron Daly 

It's always interesting to read an article that challenges convention, then see the blow-back from that article, then see the author's response to the blow-back. With so much media to manage these days, conversations and commentary come out of the woodwork. If they don't reply on your blog, they'll reply on their blog. Or on Twitter. Or on Facebook. Or by phone. Or right up in your face. 

Take, for instance, this opinion piece by Nick Bilton in the New York Times. It's a piece that rails against the "Thank You!" email, the voice mail where a text message should go, the use of friends to answer a question that's made for Google. 

Really, who sends an e-mail or text message that just says “Thank you”? Who leaves a voice mail message when you don’t answer, rather than texting you? Who asks for a fact easily found on Google?

Don’t these people realize that they’re wasting your time?

As you might expect, the lament of a 36-year-old super-geek didn't sit well with readers, many of whom are from a generation removed - one that emphasized penmanship, greeting cards and always saying "please" and "thank you". 

Do I really care about "Thank You" emails? No, not really. They're nice to get, and if they have more information or want to continue a conversation, why not? But I'm not going to lose sleep, nor should anyone looking for a reply from me be upset if I just move forward with the next steps after I get an email with an "action item". 

Bilton again, with a worthwhile consideration: 

How to handle these differing standards? Easy: think of your audience. Some people, especially older ones, appreciate a thank-you message. Others, like me, want no reply. “It is important to think about who the relationship is with,” Mr. [Daniel Post] Senning said.

Audience, audience, audience. The number one consideration in marketing, business, sales, collections, consultations, etc. You have to remember to whom you're talking. 

Based on the reactions he got, you might think Mr. Bilton hasn't considered his audience's reaction. Spoiler alert: they got mad. They called Bilton a "sociopath" (no, really), irrational, impatient, sad...they really didn't like the idea that he didn't want to talk to his mother directly, but rather via Twitter. Bilton later explained that his mother lives in England and, as a San Francisco resident, he couldn't call her at any hour that was convenient for both of them, so they rely on Twitter to fill in the gaps. He talks about how he does, in fact, hand-write thank you notes to friends and relations. But too late - the audience had made up their minds.

Bilton says he doesn't mind being "the punching bag" for people his age. He did lament, however, the extremes people go to when they react to something they don't like. They talk about how disgustingly disconnected from reality he must be to dislike a "thank you" message. Bilton replies that the stewards of Emily Post's legacy of good manners insist that, yes, you should consider the audience when crafting a reply. Some people will love a "thanks!", some won't. Some people will want a voice mail, some will just delete it. 

And then Bilton made a really terrific point about who trains whom in our culture. It used to be that older people taught younger people everything. As technology advances and people develop skills at different ages, it's clear that education moves in two directions: up and down the years, each generation having something to offer the other. 

I had to learn to text if I wanted to get an answer to a simple question out of my kids. My younger employees come to me if they want my input about business or finance. We have many ways of communicating and we all have things we need to get done, so we all have to adjust our methods from time to time to make it work. 

Now...let's talk about "what you've always done" and member communication. 

The truth is, things change. People want to converse and conduct business in different ways, and the methods they use are changing all the time. But in embracing changes, consider the audience's reaction to your messages. Maybe one group really loves hearing from you every month. Maybe one group wants a phone call every once in a while. Maybe there are outliers - people who have adopted new ways of handling all of their inputs and have rolled with the changes. 

Pay attention. Knowing how to talk to people is critical to a credit union marketer/manager's livelihood. Knowing when to say something and what to say is so important, and just as important, knowing when to quit talking and let people get back to their lives. 

My Pet Peeve: When you use an online chat or a toll-free line for customer support and people keep pushing the script on you when you've made it very clear that you're done. 

Me: "Well, thank you, that's all."

Them: "Okay, Mr. Daly, is there anything else I can help you with today?"

Me (in my brain): "Are you not listening? Or are you just forced to do this, like a robot?"

Me: "No, that's it."

Them: "Okay, thank you for calling our help line. You can reach us online any time at www..."

Me (in my brain again): "Come ON, just say goodbye and hang up the phone."

I like dealing with people, not people ordered to act like a computer. Here's my dream customer service call.

Me: "Well, thank you, that's all I needed."

Them: "Okay, Mr. Daly. Have a good afternoon."

Me: "Okay, bye!"

I've had maybe three of these calls in my life. And I make a lot of calls. 

All it takes is a little listening. People unsubscribe from your newsletter? Fine, but make a note of that. Don't chalk it up as "this person's not interested"...find a way into their lives that works for them and you. It exists, I'm sure. 

And when they talk, listen. And when they reply, read it thoroughly. And when they care, you should care, too. 

Don't let technology fool you into thinking that etiquette and thoughtfulness don't mean anything, to any given age group. Treat members with respect and you'll earn theirs. 

And for what it's worth? You should call your mom on the phone. Unless she's totally into Facebook now. 

March 14, 2013

Google's Killing Its RSS Reader. How Will Your Readership Survive?

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Arrested-development

There are times when the leader of a business knows he or she has to kill off a product. In some cases, this is celebrated. In others, it's met with many loud groans and much sadness.

Google Reader is a perfect example of the latter. Widely used, widely adored, free to all - but on July 1, it gets the proverbial knock on the head from Google. This simple, lovable web service is going to that big farm upstate to chase rabbits. Yeah, that's it. Rabbits.

Hopefully, this won't affect the "CU Blogosphere" too much. Heaven knows there are plenty of places to get your fill, including CU Insight, the CU Watercooler, various Twitter feeds, Facebook feeds...the list goes on, but you get the point. Just because Google Reader dies, that doesn't mean the stories stop coming.

But for those RSS-heavies, it's going to be a rough few months. Where will they go for their stories, their thought pieces, their news?

Humbly, I submit a few suggestions.

  1. Outlook Users, Rejoice! - I'm forever in Outlook (Neil Diamond, where are you? I've got a song for you and you don't even need a new melody!), so the Reader news doesn't bother me that much - I had one of my Nerds-in-Residence set up my RSS feeds in my Outlook. It's a simple, painless process and it means you can use Outlook for more that just email churn and booking meetings. Here's the Outlook team on how to set it up for yourself.
  2. Mac Users, Hit the App Store - The Mac App store has a few dozen RSS-app options, a few of them free, the rest only a small amount. One thing I did notice - many apps are "Google Reader Apps", meaning they integrated with Google Reader. Wonder if their developers will try and adapt or simply close up shop.

    One highly recommended app, Fever, is $30 (yikes!) and its developer has stated, publicly, he really doesn't have the time to work on it. Plus, you self-host the service. A big turn-off for the non-technical.

    So what are our lonely Mac Lovers going to do? I turned to my go-to on things like this, Jimmy Marks, and - after several minutes of teasing him (he's a big-time Google Reader Believer) - asked what he planned on doing.

    "Feedly's probably the way to go. It's not as cut-and-dry as Reader is, but it focuses on the newest content and lets you navigate around on your terms. I don't use Mac's Mail app, or I'd do what you did and add the RSS feeds there. Now stop throwing paperclips at me, I'm in a bad enough mood as it is!"

    (Editor's Note -- I wasn't throwing paperclips at him. That you know of.) 

  3. See If Your Favorite Blogs Have Social Feeds/"Updates by Mail" Options - Many blogs have their RSS items go directly to their Twitter or Facebook feed. Others still use direct-to-inbox delivery to get the message out when it's time. The CU Soapbox's posts go to a mail audience in the hundreds, many of whom prefer to read their feed from the comfort of their email inbox. Giving people different points of entry doesn't do anything to the results - if they're reading and engaged, you're doing your job.
  4. Google's Cleaning Up, Why Don't You? - If you're anything like me, you've gathered quite a few blogs over the years. Many of them stop posting and you just sort of forget about them. Go ahead and delete those feeds. This frees you from the struggle of bothering with too many blogs and sets you up to find something new and exciting out there in the blogging world.

There are plenty of people who want to petition Google to save Reader. They're probably the same kind of folks who are waiting on that Arrested Development movie. Want my take? Let's give Reader a good send-off and then move on to bigger and better. There are always better apps out there, and if there aren't, it's our duty as lovers of technology to create them. Necessity is the mother of invention.

As far as how this applies to credit unions' blogs...you went to all that trouble to create a blog or a news feed or an events feed. Will people still follow it when Reader bites the dust? Better be sure they do. Find new ways to get the same content to the same people without the crutch of Google Reader and you're good to go.