Success During (and After) COVID-19

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Sarah Lietz, MDC

I had the opportunity to sit down with Kurt Schroeder, Chief Experience Officer, and John Seeds, VP of Marketing, from Avtex Solutions—a global end-to-end customer experience (CX) provider based in Minneapolis. In the last few weeks they have helped multiple clients in critical industries like financial services and health care build out virtual contact centers using cloud technology in just a matter of days. I recently asked them about how to deal with the crisis today while still planning for what’s coming tomorrow. This blog is based on our conversation.

Imagine it’s six months into the future. We will look around and identify the companies who came through this crisis stronger than ever. What are the components of their success? What can you do today to ensure your place on that future list?

Focus on Your Employees

We hear it all the time—employees are our most important asset. It’s true now more than ever. After all, a positive employee experience (EX) leads to a positive member experience (MX). So how can you keep your employees safe, motivated, and happy?

  • STAY STRATEGIC. This is the time to flex your leadership muscle. Strategic leadership and strong executioners are critical now—CFO’s need to be more strategic, MX needs to move up in the org chart, and the CEO needs to continue to develop the C-suite. Remember your long game. Oh, and all this remote work that’s going on right now? Prepare for that to stick around after the crisis is over!
  • OVERCOMMUNICATE. In a time of crisis, people want to be led, to hear a voice they can trust. And your team may feel disconnected and out of the loop as they adjust to working remotely full time. So tell your people what the plan is—and shoot straight. If they trust the plan, they can focus on your members.
  • EMPATHIZE. Stress is high. Recognize your team’s anxiety on a personal level. The Fed forecast unemployment of 32% in Q2—what is your plan to ensure their jobs survive? Equip your team to deal with the strain on their own mental health so they can take care of your members. Be flexible and trust your team. Little things you do matter—like overstaffing a bit so people can take longer than average breaks.
  • EMPOWER. Recognize that front-line employees are dealing with high-strung members who need help. MSR’s are going to take the brunt of that. Empower your front-line staff to do what’s right for the member. Give your team really wide guardrails to make instant decisions without having to ask a manager or consult policies. And support them with the technology they need to work safely, quickly, and efficiently.
  • CELEBRATE. Working remotely is new to many credit union leaders. Be flexible about work/life integration. Celebrate cool office setups, working outside, taking calls on a walk, or hearing kids and dogs in the background. Communicate from the top down that it’s OK, this is the world we live in right now, and we’re all in this together.

Focus on Your Customers

Meet members’ functional needs. Yes, credit unions are all adjusting to working remotely, but members still have regular business questions around their mortgages or car loans or savings accounts. The more time goes on, the less patience members will have while they wait for answers. Mobilize your workforce to have the same level of customer contact they would normally have in the branch. Redeploy your branch staff to answer member calls. Equip them to handle a higher volume of calls. Address and resolve members’ functional, basic needs as quickly as possible.

Reduce effort. When people are stressed and anxious, they can’t think rationally, so make it easy as possible for members to do business with you. If you’re asking them to do ten steps when they can do it in five, make sure they can do it in five. If you’re asking for information for your own benefit, stop that. If you’re asking questions that can be construed as helping you market to them, stop that too. Concentrate on helping members achieve their immediate need. Here’s an easy suggestion to reduce effort—emphasize your 800 number on your website home page. Don’t make members hunt for it. Don’t hide it behind “Contact Us.” Put it up front in a huge font where they can’t miss it.

Understand members’ emotional needs. During this crisis members’ emotional needs are probably different than three months ago. Then members maybe wanted to feel valued; now they need to feel safe. You have to shift what would normally be a great experience to incorporate members’ emotional needs of NOW.

Focus on Your Community

Finally, use this time to solidify your position and brand in your community. What can you do to help those on the front line? Your actions must be authentic, not self-promoting. How you participate in the community at large will be remembered.

Scientists have studied the link between fear and memory for decades, finding that in a state of heightened fear and adrenaline, people form long-term memories faster. The impression people have of your organization during this crisis will last longer because of it. What impression do you want to make? Right now more than ever credit unions need to be better than banks. If membership truly has meaning, this is when credit unions can show their true colors. Take care of people. Do the right thing. And you will be rewarded with long-term, life-loyal members who will guarantee you have a spot on the “successful list” six months down the road.