Unintended consequences can be damaging

When Marketers don’t pay enough attention, unintended consequences can be especially damaging. If you don’t believe me, look at the public relations fiasco United Airlines has been experiencing lately.

Those standardized terms probably looked reasonable to those in charge of herding passengers at United, especially since all the major airlines use similar wording in the fine print that accompany ticket sales. They allowed the airline to be able to accept/move/deny passengers as needed, in order to keep the majority happy and on schedule. But they never realized how it would appear to the public when those terms became public knowledge, on top of the PR damage done by 200 passengers sharing videos of “the incident.

While credit unions aren’t likely to drag someone out of a branch, they can be just as blind on how their policies and processes treat their members. Loan officers and operations staff are usually more concerned about filling in all of the blanks, checking all of the compliance boxes, and keeping things moving than making the process more palatable for the member. There is a lot to do, and how it feels to the member isn’t as important as getting it done. That is why Marketing needs to pay attention to all member interactions from a member point-of-view, instead of simply relying on the process to work.

Let me give you a personal example:

I’m a 30+ year member at my credit union. Between the 4 of us in the family, and the business, we have something like 18 different accounts. I recently moved and opted to finance my condo with them, thinking that it should be a breeze since I was only financing half the value, plus they had all of my information/credit records, etc. from refinancing the office a few months before.

It didn’t matter at all. Since one was a mortgage and the other a business loan, different departments and different people were involved, and every form and process was repeated. It was long and painful, but it got done (finally), and even though the CU sold the loan they continue to service it, so the payments are easier for me.

Then this weekend I received a vaguely-threatening letter from the CU claiming that since the condo association’s hazard insurance was not “current” they would be buying insurance on my behalf unless I sent them a copy of the condo association’s current policy. First I was stunned. Then upset that I was to be punished for someone else’s failure to do something. That’s when I saw the return address and realized that the letter came from some sort of a service company in Texas, not from the CU as the masthead suggested. Now I was mad. After a few calls and emails with the vendor, the CU mortgage department, and the credit union’s CEO, the CU is handling it like they should have in the first place.

But it made me wonder, what would have happened if this company HAD bought $2100 worth of insurance then tried to collect from me? Is this a common practice, and has it already happened to other members? Why was this company contacting members directly in the first place, using the CU’s masthead? And why would a CU agree to such an arrangement in the first place?

Granted, a vaguely-threatening letter doesn’t compare to the PR damage done by 200 passengers taking videos on their phones, but even the little things add up to a member, and are bound to impact not only their impression of the credit union, but also whether they will recommend it to their friends and family. The damage to your brand can be pretty deep.

So if you are wondering why referrals are down, work with other departments to look at all processes from a member’s point-of-view. You may be surprised at the hoops you are asking them to jump through.

Kent Dicken

Email this article to a friend or coworker.