Here's how to turn this beastie into a bestie

Wrestling the Member Onboarding Monster

This slippery, sly critter is a regular Houdini. Without constant attention and communication, the Member Onboarding Monster slips overboard the instant your back is turned, taking hundreds of members with him.

Here’s how to turn this beastie into your member retention bestie, and transform single-service and indirect members into lifelong super-fans:

Automate onboarding

This one’s basic; do you have something, anything set up to automatically communicate with new members and track responses? A series of four to six personalized emails and/or direct mail pieces over the first few months of a new membership is the minimum.

The nuts and bolts are a whole separate topic, but you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to get the data on new members on a regular basis and turn that into a series of automated emails, postcards, etc. and how you’re going to track the responses. The more you can automate, the more you’ll get done, so most CUs tend to use email.

Teach culture; don’t push products

The biggest mistake you can make is trying to sell stuff to your newbies on a fixed schedule. Credit cards this week, checking next week, car loans in week three… Instead, cultivate them. Reinforce why they’ve made a great decision, and teach them about your credit union. What’s your purpose? Who are you? What are your shared values? What makes yours a credit union they can believe in?

You’re looking to begin a lifetime relationship here; that’s where the real value is. Take it slow, and let folks settle in. Sure, discuss products when appropriate, but don’t make it all about selling.

Map out your member journey from single-service to fully-involved lifetime superfan. What can you teach new members about credit unions, about your CU’s specific Purpose, or about your service to your community, to help them get started on that path?

Don’t forget the personal touch

People like communicating with people, not machines. Make sure your onboarding materials are from a real person that the new member can actually contact, and that they have multiple ways to learn more and to respond if they need more info.

At some CUs, it’s an email straight from the CEO, at others it’s someone on a special onboarding team with a phone number and a link to make an appointment. There are lots of ways to connect new members to real people, so choose the right solution for your CU, your culture, and your members.

Connect newbies to resources

For example, do you have a “New Member FAQ” page on your website? Maybe you need to draw attention to your “make an appointment” button’ , since they’ll probably have more questions. Or perhaps you have a “Smooth Switch Strike Team” standing by to help new members move their accounts seamlessly.

Show indirect lending members some special attention

Members who arrive via indirect auto loans are a special case. And honestly, converting them to fully participating members is really tough. We’ve outlined some more detailed tips for onboarding indirect members here.

In any case, you’ll need to do a little more research and work a little harder to convert more indirect members. They probably don’t know much about you other than a low loan rate, so handle them with special care and set up your onboarding process and materials separately with their needs in mind.

Segment and customize

In the same way, people who start with a home equity loan are different than people who are setting up their first checking account. Once your basic onboarding program up and running, try customizing your approach to each group based on how they got started, or age, life stage, SEG, etc.

Review regularly

Whatever you do, “set it and forget it” doesn’t work for onboarding. Automate everything you can, but check in frequently to see how things are going, gather feedback, fine-tune, and try new things.

Remember, deepening relationships with the members you have is much more efficient and cost-effective than acquiring new members.

Once you learn these monster-wrangling principles, the Member Onboarding Monster will help make sure new members stick around for life instead of jumping overboard!


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