CUTomorrow Conference: How to Effectively Onboard New Members

AUSTIN, Texas–A credit union that signs up between 8,000 and 10,000 new members every month has learned some key lessons about effective onboarding that it shared with other CUs here.

At’s CUTomorrow Conference here, Stacy Collins, director of experience design with BECU in Tukwila, Wash., said it has overhauled the way it welcomes all those new members now, and the results have been clear for both the sign-ups as well as the CU itself, especially the backoffice.


Stacy Collins speaking to CUTomorrow Conference.

The $18.6-billion BECU operates 47 financial centers, 45 of which do not have tellers. Many of the new members come through its digital channels (there is no minimum share deposit required to open an account).

Aspiration Vs. Reality

While BECU was the largest CU in attendance at the CUTomorrow Conference—where CUs as small as $17 million were also in attendance–Collins discussed two elements she said are not unique to BECU or asset size: aspiration and reality. 

BECU’s aspiration with onboarding is that it be frictionless, personalized and conducted from the member’s perspective. 

“We want them to have as much information as possible to get going, and from a PFI standpoint we know the more members are actually transacting and utilizing; that’s where you really see the PFI attitude come through.”

The reality for BECU, however, said Collins, is that prior to redesigning its processes its members were “drinking from the firehose” as soon as they were signed up.

“What happened was we’re saying, ‘This is our one chance, we need to tell them everything and uncover every hidden need,” Collins said. “What is was turning into was taking a big chunk out of our members’ day. For many of our locations, the busiest time was between 11-1 and 5-6. What was happening there were lines out the door, literally. People were questioning whether this was the place to be. We heard from our members that the lines were sometimes starting to blur between being seen as a credit union and a bank.”

After a new member joined, explained Collins, BECU previously sent an email to members that was long and full of links, followed up several days later by a survey on how the CU did.

“You’ll notice when we said aspiration we didn’t say easy; we said frictionless and personalized,” said Collins.

The Feedback

Collins shared with the CUTomorrow audience some of the feedback BECU heard, especially on social media, and none of it was kind. Members felt both overwhelmed and underwhelmed, she added.

BECU sought to overhaul its account opening process by simplifying things. 

“One of the things we learned with member onboarding communications is good timing,” Collins said.

Prior to overhauling its processes, BECU would send multiple emails, including as many as five in the first month, which led many to unsubscribe. 

“We had to look at what is the important information our members need right up front, and what is the cadence we should use to make sure they are getting those messages,” said Collins. “The first email got pretty good open rates, but the response rates were low. What was high was the volume to the contact center with questions about when to expect checks and debit cards, even though that was in the first email sent.”
BECU looked at what are the five critical pieces of information needed as it sought to drive personalization.

The Second Piece

The second piece was good content, according to Collins, pointing to the “paradox of choice” in which too many choices leads to an inability to make a choice.

The reengineering of BECU’s account opening process “didn’t happen overnight,” explained Collins. It reviewed steps related to finding a target for BECU, content mapping, data triggers and logic, marketing creative and launch.

It now targets the profile of a 29-year-old mass influencer who is female. “If we can target to that person, we pretty much are golden.” 

The credit union now looks at the member journey to ask what does the member need now and what will that person need next. It uses Salesforce Marketing Cloud in quantifying data triggers and logic.

During her remarks at the CUTomorrow Conference Collins presented slides showing BECU’s messaging, much of which employ clear and simple graphics. Its initial welcome email includes information on how to manage accounts and how to find closest ATM and financial center. “The number-one improvement comment we get is add more ATMs,” said Collins, “so we knew we had to change how we were communicating access to an ATM.”

Members are then walked through how to set up online banking and alerts.

Progress Chart

On Day 10 BECU sends to members a graphic Progress Chart  that shows what the member needs to do really be a part of the credit union. 

On Day 25 it invites members to take part in a financial health check during which the member can schedule time with BECU to go through their debts, income, plans to save, how to create emergency fund, etc. 

“We do this before we start pitching any products for lending. And we do this because we want members to understand we are here for their financial health.”

On day 45 the new member gets a version of the credit card invitation email if they don’t have one. If have a card, they receive an invitation for an auto loan or a personal line of credit.

“Introducing the ‘Progress Bar’ has had a significant impact in helping members to get onboard more quickly,” said Collins referring to the graphic she showed her audience that illustrates where the member stands. “We have tried to utilize gamification and visualization. The results have surprised us right out of the gate.”

Collins, who told the meeting “You only need two things–good timing and good content,” said BECU is getting closer to its aspirational goal of being  frictionless and personalized. It has been able to reduce the workload on its backoffice and contact center by better communicating with members and having them handle more transactions on their own, she said.

“Sometimes to really tackle a complex problem you just need to take a step back,” she told CUTomorrow.  


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Copyright Year: 2019
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