How many of us are making strategic decisions based on what the competition is doing?

Lemming let down

Never tell my mother I said this, but…I was a lucky kid. You see my father was the director of a state agency in South Dakota through the eighties and early nineties. When the State of South Dakota decided to upgrade their technological infrastructure, they allowed employees to purchase PCs on their bulk order. Because of this “perk” I was the first kid on the block to have an IBM with floppy drive.

Still today people ask me how I learned to type so fast and accurately. I usually respond “lucky, I guess.” The truth is we only had Donkey Kong, Frogger, and a typing tutor to occupy our computer time; after all, Oregon Trail was still on Apple. However, about 1990 (if memory serves) we received a game called “Lemmings.” Some of you may remember this game – Lemmings was a game in which you guided “lemmings” through various obstacles to “safety.” Whatever the first lemming did the others followed.

How does a late 80s/early 90s-video game relate to credit union marketing? Simple…

Just so you know, I was a Marketing Director, then CAO/AVP at a CU for years; loved the job, loved the whole CU philosophy and culture. Recently I became a member of another credit union. I have been very impressed with their services thus far, however, my last visit was a bit unsettling. I showed up to “my” branch with a stack of bills to be paid. Yes, the branch manager volunteered for the duty as she does for all members. (See earlier statement on impressive service.) I requested three corporate drafts to cover various bills including a sizable second mortgage payoff. The teller said “that will cost $9.00.” I was evidently outwardly surprised because she felt the need to sheepishly continue “sorry, it’s new.”

I took that as an invitation to voice my frustration. “I might as well go back to a bank,” I muttered to the teller. Now if to this point you’re thinking I’m whiny, I’ll accept that. However, the next response was most illuminating. The teller responded by saying “that won’t help, we copied them.” I instantly flashed back to sitting at my IBM, wearing parachute pants with a muscle shirt, watching one lemming follow the other off the cliff.

So I ask:

How many of us are making strategic decisions based on what the competition is doing?

More importantly, how many of us are excusing bad behavior by highlighting what the competition is doing? I would venture a guess that my credit union is not alone.

What happened to being different, standing out, bucking the trend, thinking outside the box? Is not charging a fee for a corporate draft going to put your credit union into P.C.A.? If so, stop reading this and go find a suitable merger partner. If not, why are you charging such an insulting fee? Alternatively, why not charge $5.00 per month for a checking account and let your members get away with murder? Literally. Let them come in and get a check, see a teller, or even (GASP) make an auto transfer from one account to another. This member for one would certainly appreciate it.

– Tyler Disburg is CEO of a CU in WY (and living proof it can happen)!

Kent Dicken
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