ORLANDO, Fla. (11/6/08)--Devoting the necessary resources and implementing an exclusive outbound-calling strategy are key to successfully building multi-product relationships with indirect borrowers, CUNA Lending Council attendees were told Tuesday.
Heather Thiltgen, vice president, consumer programs at CUNA Mutual Group, provided insights on how credit unions can turn “one-and-done” indirect borrowers into profitable members. She presented results from a four-month CUNA Mutual Group research pilot project that published a white paper, “Developing Members from Indirect Borrowers: Lessons Learned.” The research project involved 13 credit unions. It found that by implementing the right strategy, credit unions can deepen relationships with indirect borrowers. During the pilot, trained outbound-calling representatives offered additional credit products to members, including lines of credit, additional auto loan and credit care, based on need. The overall cross-sales rate for the pilot was 21%. Credit lines were the most successful cross-sale products at 28%. Auto refinances had a 15% sales rate, and credit cards a 17%. “It is very important that your sales reps have outbound-calling experience,” Thiltgen said. “There is a temptation for some credit unions to use down times for inbound reps to attempt outbound call programs, but it should be avoided,” she said. “Outbound and inbound skill sets are very different.” The dedicated outbound-calling staff should have a financial services background and be entrepreneurial, Thiltgen added. “We recommend that reps be well-trained and be salaried with incentives for meeting productivity goals,” she said. “And, there needs to be performance expectations up front, for example calls per hour and a percent cross-sale rate.” Choosing the right outbound-call rep is a key to any program’s success. As part of the research project, rep interviews attempted to determine if they were sufficiently outgoing and bold enough to ask for the sale. “But we also preferred an educational service call, as opposed to an aggressive sales call. The sales philosophy requires assertiveness balanced with a strong service orientation and credit union values,” Thiltgen said. The CUNA Mutual research project revealed members are receptive to outbound calls. “Even if you don’t close new business during the call, it has a relationship-building benefit,” Thiltgen added. “Most members thanked the rep for the call, even if they failed to purchase an additional product.” The research also revealed members are best reached on their home phones, Monday through Thursday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays. Thiltgen said it took an average of 3.2 attempts to make contact with members, and that 10% of the phone numbers call reps received were incorrect. “This could be viewed as a wake-up call for credit unions to check the accuracy of member phone numbers,” she said. “A proactive approach to securing more business from indirect borrowers is the wave of the future,” Thiltgen said. “Our research showed that a dedicated outbound-calling strategy can engage otherwise one-and-done members in a way that will meet their needs and save them money.”