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Remember when Ron Shevlin and I used to publicly spar about Net Promoter Score and member service as a differentiator? Good times. Nothing anyone can say will ever make me feel otherwise. We are in the service business, period. We cannot differentiate with unique products or packaging, we sell and move money. Boring. Banking is an errand. Members don’t GET to go into the credit union, sometimes they HAVE to. Boring. And most member’s expectations? Very low. Their goal is to get in, get out and no one gets hurt.

That’s why one “wow” experience can produce so much value. It’s not expected, so it makes a lasting impression.

Fred Reichheld, co-creator of Net Promoter Score said it best. We know loyal members do three things for us:

  1. They will buy more from us and are less likely to rate shop (increasing services per household)
  2. They will market for us. Word of mouth is, has been, and always will be the most effective marketing.
  3. They will tell us how to improve the credit union. When you hear “I’ve been a member for X years” know that that is a gift because you are about to get a loyalty lesson. Listen.

If you would have told me in 2007 when I was in NYC with America First, Baxter, and Educators credit unions at the Inaugural Net Promoter Score conference that 8 years later I would be the one responsible for putting ON the annual conferences in US and London AND that I would also get to resurrect Loyalty Live – well, I would have slapped you and then kissed you on the mouth. Because you never know where life is going to take you, right?

It is with great pride that I invite you to join me and all my friends in Phoenix on March 4th and 5th at the Arizona Grand Spa & Resort for Loyalty Live. We are going to share stories about success, failure and the challenges that come with truly listening and responding to the authentic voice of the member.

I love recruiting speakers for events because I basically get to bring in people I love and admire. Check out who’s going to be there:


  • Sandy Anderson, Sr. VP Client Support & Sales Operations, Experian
  • Sally and John Myers, CEO and President of c.Myers
  • Matt Davis, former Director of Innovation Filene Research Institute and founder of GameFI

Thanks to our amazing and generous sponsors we are able to offer credit-union friendly pricing. Give it up for Co-OP Financial Services, Kasasa by Bancvue, MARQUIS, Geezeo, CUNA Mutual and CU Direct Lending.

I hope to see all the credit unions who are passionate about service there because we’re getting the band back together!

One credit union trend I love is the “All Staff Training Day” Taking an obscure holiday like Columbus Day – remaining closed – and going off-site to a fun place for the entire staff to learn, laugh, bond, eat and receive logo SWAG.

I have had the honor to be the guest speaker at many of these events. I’ve seen CEOs dress up like bikers, HR Directors in a Pickle Costume tossing rubber pickles into the crowd, amazing and funny videos, but most of all I get to see tellers smile.

You see, I started my career as a teller. And I loved being a teller. I loved the validation that comes at the end of every day that is the balancing of the cash drawer.  Tangible evidence of your greatness. And a sense of completion that you rarely get once you move into management.

I also remember just how much control I had over the Credit Union’s reputation.  Which is to say I had the ultimate control. And I used my powers for good – always.

Most credit union’s travel budgets look like this:


So, I’m available for your next staff training day.  I’m holding Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day and MLK Day for whomever contacts me first.

Email me for more information

And if you don’t need me this year – tell your friends. Seriously, if you know someone that has access to the CUNA Training List Serv thingy – love to get a shout out.

My goal is to return to work next week. But I cannot do it without new brown sandals. So naturally I went to (on my iPad) this morning – and bam! Zappos has an App – for free. Installed it. Just when I didn’t think they could make spending money any faster or funner – they did.

Search by shoe.
Size 8
Sort by most popular (cuz that’s important to me…LOL)

And there they are! The perfect shoe. On sale.


Add to cart.
Where would you like to ship? (all of my previous shipping info in there)
What credit card would you like to use? (again, all my information stored from previous purchases)
Where should we bill this?

And then the most magical thing happened…..the shipping information. Little gold “VIP” coins started dropping from the sky (the iPad sky) filling the screen for a second and then the reveal. Because I am a VIP (spend a lot of money on shoes) I get free overnight shipping! Yay!

Complete purchase.

Now I just wait for the UPS guy. I’m on the front porch as I write this.

So – what can credit unions learn from this?

#1 – For god’s sake – didn’t I already GIVE you that information? I have a car loan with you, my mortgage, I’ve been a member for over 15 years and you STILL keep asking me who I am – where I work, live, etc…….why not take a page from Zappos and elegantly have me confirm that nothing has changed.

#2 – Reward my loyalty for crying out loud. Celebrate it! Thank me for my contribution to the co-op.

#3 – Give me my stuff now. Like my debit card and PIN. If I move my checking account (and all the baggage that comes with it) to your credit union at the very least I should walk out of there with an activated debit card. The chances that I will actually take the time to reset all of my bill pay, automatic deductions and most importantly my direct deposit – greatly increases if I don’t have to wait two weeks for my access device.

#4 – Give me an app for that. We live on our smart phones – and if I have to access your big ugly clunky website on my iPhone – fuhgetaboutit.

Every now and again in my travels I’ll see someone carrying an old Samsonite suitcase. A nice olive green one with buckles. It seems so weird to see a person struggling with the weight of their bag while all those around him/her effortlessly pulling theirs thanks to the amazing invention: wheels on luggage.

But why did this take so long to invent? And why did so many people buy the luggage trolly and still not see that it would be easier to just put the damn wheels ON the luggage?

My mantra this year is from Mr. James Dyson: “Solve the obvious problem that others seem to ignore.”

In the financial world I think we have lots of old olive green suitcases that we’re still lugging around.

# 1- At the top of our list: our hours. I can’t believe we still get away with 9 to 5, Monday thru Friday. And even more amazing – those hours force our members to run their banking errand on their lunch hour AND we close teller windows so our employees can run THEIR errands. Have all teller windows open at lunch = wheels on luggage.

#2 – The switch kit. I don’t know of any bigger pain in the butt than moving your checking account. The switch kits I’ve seen merely illustrate how difficult this is going to be. But I guess it can keep me busy while I wait 7 to 10 days for my debit card and PIN. The human switch kit = wheels on luggage. Do the switching for me.

#3 – Making a deposit. The hardest thing to do with my credit union is to give them money. If I take it to a shared branch location I can count on a hold. If I put it in the ATM, same thing. If I mail it – well – I’m relying on the US Postal Service to deposit my money. Remote Check Scan & Deposit = wheels on luggage.

#4 – The phone. Don’t make me wade through a bunch of marketing messages and “press one for member service.” There’s not a single piece of evidence out there to support this level of ignore – no one asked for it, no one likes it. Answer the phone = wheels on luggage.

Solve the obvious problem that others seem to ignore and you will have your differentiator.

You’re welcome.

I’ve been with United Airlines for 10 years now. Yesterday I logged my 971,105th mile. And those are miles sitting in a damn seat on United. Paid trips. Not buying stuff at the mall. Nine hundred seventy one thousand one hundred and five miles.

Each year you have to re-qualify for your “status.” I get that. Last year I fell short of the 100K status I’ve enjoyed. BUT, once I hit one million miles (very soon) I will have lifetime status. Never have to re-qualify.

I have goals. I will log my 1 millionth mile with them.

Life in the Premier line isn’t bad. I still get to board the plane before most of the passengers, enjoy the express security lane and they consider all of my miles (lifetime) when I am on the wait list for a first class upgrade.

What I miss the most – the private number for 100K passengers. Even though I still know the number (have it memorized) the computer asks “To make sure we direct your call to the right place, please enter, or speak your mileage plus number…” And so off to India I go.

I was just told that to change a flight (which, btw, I tried to do online but it said I had to call) they had to call the service desk to manually recalculate the price. It would be about 10-15 minutes to do that – did I want to hold?

Yes. I will hold. I really need to change this flight. And so I listen to the Gershwin tune – over and over and over again…..on speaker phone….cutting in and out as I type furiously.…giving me hope that some United employee with a calculator will tell me how much more money I have to give them to fly in a middle seat on their lousy airline.

It’s hard to describe my frustration. And I thought writing this post would help, but I realize it’s really not. Only adding to it.

Because you see – no one at United cares. Even if I complain to the person who eventually will answer my call. Nothing will change. Sure, I could boycott them – that’ll show them.

On average I spend $45,000 on airline tickets per year. So you could say I’m coming up on a cool half million to fly one million miles with United. You’d think someone in their accounting department is doing the math.

Oh, and I just heard the breaking news – Tiger Woods is going to apologize for his behavior. Wow. That’s a relief. The world is right again……..

For those of you that remember my precious Miss Mavis, you know that’s not possible. But, she’s a close second. Her new book, titled “I Love You More Than My Dog” takes a new and fresh look at what she calls beloved companies.

Trader Joe’s, Container Store, LUSH, Netflix, IKEA. What do these entirely different brands have in common? They are irrational. Their love of customers is irrational. From a CFO perspective, some of the things they do to delight customers makes no mathematical sense. But they cannot help themselves. They decided to love customers – every day.

Her book is centered around the five decisions made by beloved companies:

  1. Beloved companies decide to believe.
  2. Beloved companies decide with clarity of purpose.
  3. Beloved companies decide to be real.
  4. Beloved companies decide to be there.
  5. Beloved companies decide to say sorry.

Last week at the NPS Conference in NYC, Jeanne Bliss invited three people, highlighted in her book,  to join her on stage to tell their stories. First up was Christopher Zane, president and founder of Zane’s Cycles. He started this company when he was 16 years old and his love of bicycling has now turned into an extremely profitable enterprise. He believes that people are good and can be trusted. So when someone comes in to look at a bike, his store encourages them to take it for a spin. With no collateral (like wallet, car keys, etc) required to leave behind. Sure, about 6 bikes a year get stolen. But he did the math. The losses he takes for those six jerks versus the love he creates for the 99.9% of his customers by deciding to believe, makes mathematical sense.

Next up, Fred Taylor from Southwest Airlines (SWA). He is the Chief Apology Officer for Southwest Airlines. Even though SWA has consistently received the lowest ratio of complaints per passengers boarded of all major US carriers – when you employee 35,000 people that fly more than 3100 flights a day – stuff happens.

They decided to be real and to say they are sorry. They start each day with MOM. The Morning Overview Meeting. Weather, staffing issues, mechanical, anything that might get in the way of passengers delight, they are proactively working it.

I was supposed to fly through Dulles tomorrow on my way to Jacksonville. I got a text page from United that said simply “cancelled” and gave me a number to call. I called and got a recording that said, and I’m paraphrasing here: “We are experiencing crazy high call volume and can’t help you right now……good bye.”

The folks at SWA are busy responding with customized messages to those passengers that are screwed.  Their goal is to reach the customer electronically before the customer has to reach out to them to lodge a complaint. You can’t control the weather, but you can control how you react to it. At SWA it’s simple:

  1. They acknowledge the situation.
  2. They apologize for the experience they have had.
  3. They make some gesture to help regain the customer’s trust.

When is the last time you proactively apologized to a member?

And finally, Wayne Peacock from USAA. USAA is a membership organization (much like a credit union) serving over 7 million members of the US military. They provide legendary service that focuses on one word: empathy. Their products are insurance and financial services. Their customers are fighting everyday for our freedom.

A big part of their culture is understanding intimately their customer’s world. So in new employee orientation, they spend a day wearing a soldier’s uniform complete with those big boots, and eating MREs – meals ready to eat. They need to empathize with their customer.

The session concluded with Jeanne donning the soldier’s gear and dining on MRE fettucini. A powerful visual and reminder to us all – to walk a mile in our customer’s shoes and ask “Do we make it easy to do business with us?”

In this economy, we’d better find a way.

I’m sitting in New York listening to Richard Owen, co-author of Answering the Ultimate Question. He has just asked for two volunteers from the audience of 450 people, from 20 countries and 40 of the United States. Their job. To hold up a sign. One says “What I Expect,” the other “What I Want.”

He proceeded to illustrate a very simple exercise in creating promoters. Many companies have a goal to exceed customer’s expectations, very few put any real muscle behind that goal. Many will try (dabble) and end up in the big fat nebulous bell curve of, satisfied. One of the biggest problems, we don’t know what people want, and we really don’t care.

Consider the airline industry. Customers expectations got lowered (dude holding the “what I expect” sign took a step to the left) in the past two years by a new policy – charging for bags. One big player starts it (American) and everyone follows. Customers don’t want these fees (dude holding the “what I want” takes a giant step to the right) but now because everyone is doing it – expectations get lowered, complaints slow, but no love is gained. No promoters = no profit.

Except at Southwest Airlines. They have always been focused on what people want. People want to get to their destination on time. That’s why they have the unique boarding process. No one can turn a plane like SWA. The flight attendants clean the planes, mechanics only have to service one type of plane, and point to point routes dodge the nightmare that is hub and spoke and snow.

The other airlines are creating even more delays with their bag policy. People are choosing to carry-on all kinds of unwieldy bags to avoid the fee.

Southwest Airlines does not have to charge for bags.  And by doing nothing, they have become what customers want. Truly exceeding expectations. They are having a blast telling that story with these clever commercials.

They just posted a fourth quarter profit and logged their 37th consecutive year of profitability. It’s very simple. Stay focused on the customer, listen to what they want, get out of the zone of tolerance and have the balls to stick with something.

Richard just closed with a great quote from the late great Sam Walton (and I’m paraphrasing here)

Rule #10 – Swim upstream. You should go the other way and ignore the conventional wisdom. If everyone is going one way, there’s a good chance you’ll find success in the other direction. Beware –  people will flag you down and tell you you’re going the wrong way – so swim faster….

IS098R9AVIt happened again.

I had to be a member yesterday. Not an employee with my account where I work. That was fun.

Being a member – not so much. I think I cracked the code yesterday though.

Check it out.

Marketing’s job – to make things pretty, even when we have to use legal stuff on our pretty (which is why God gave us the 4 pt. font)

Operation’s job – to create forms that are compliant so we know what to put in the computer.

Loan officer’s job – to fill out those forms and put the stuff in the computer.

IT’s job – to make sure the stuff that goes in the computer is safe and secure.

I don’t mean for any of this to sound negative. I think everyone did their job yesterday. My only complaint is – it was so clinical feeling. Kind of like going to the doctor. Thank you for not weighing me, btw.

So whose job is it to be the member? To be the filter for all of these silos and make sure the delivery of your real product – service – is something I want to recommend to my friends and family and co-workers?

I’m going to Hinckley Minnesota on Sunday. 

I tried to book my hotel room online but apparently their reservation system hates MACs. So I called their 800 number. 

It went down like this:

Gertrude: Reservations.

Me: I’d like to make a reservation for the evening of October 11th.

G: You gotta coupon?

Me: No ma’am.

G: Why not?

Me: I’m just there for one night, to speak for a credit union.

G: Oh. You smoke?

Me: Nope.

G: One or two beds?

Me: One please.

G: You bringin’ anybody with you?

Me: No ma’am.

G: Didn’t think so. You gonna be here by 6:00?

Me: Um, no actually I won’t be in till after 10pm. Is that okay?

G: Chuckles. We’re a casino, someone will be up. That’s for sure. But I need a credit card if you’re not gonna be here by 6:00.

Me: 3739 609 *** ***** (for security reasons)

G: When you get here, park your car and go to customer service and get yourself a coupon. It’s free and it’ll save you 5 bucks on your room. Right now the rate is $54.00 a night, but we can get you in for $49.00 with that coupon. Okay?

Me: Yes ma’am. I’ll see you on Sunday.

G: Chuckles again. Good bye.

I have no idea if this casino is trying to build a sales and service culture. But G nailed it. She genuinely cared, albeit in an abrupt way. She was authentic. I loved it. 

You can’t teach caring. You either do or you don’t.

Time of death. 5:04 pm on September 30, 2009.

127049-gm-to-close-saturn-as-sale-collapses-410x230The life support systems are slowly removed. There’s an eerie silence in the room after the monitors are shut down. Heads are bowed. I can only imagine that was the scene in the board room in Detroit yesterday when Saturn breathed its last breath.

I was there when Saturn was born. A shiny baby sedan screaming into the world. Who couldn’t love this little car? It was the perfect child of GM. Right out of the womb it proved itself to be low maintenance, reliable and a personality to boot! 

There were some troubles during the teenage years and that’s when big bad daddy GM stepped in and sent Saturn to military school. Our baby changed. The spirit beat out of it. It had to conform. 

And so it began to act out. Started running with the wrong crowd. And eventually, died too young. 

Even though my last words were harsh and riddled with disappointment, I hope that Saturn knows all the joy it brought me. From my first SC1 Toonces, to Buttercup the SL2, my gorgeous Daisy VUE, Ruby the ION and now Sunkist the leaky windshield VUE. 

We’ve had some good times. You will be remembered.

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June 2023