Communicating for Service Excellence

By Lynn Giuliani, president and founder of Progressions, Inc.


How the member perceives you determines how they view your service. Communication skills are the key to service excellence in the eyes of the member. Whether it is in person or by telephone communication skills are crucial in any business. Follow these suggestions to represent your credit union with style and grace.


Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication represents more than 50 percent of our message. Managing the impression you make on others means paying particular attention to your non-verbal behaviors: body language, appearance, and how you sound.

It means considering how you look and sound when meeting with clients and members, going on “cold” calls, dealing with unhappy members, and most any interaction with others. Remember: non-verbal communication is the first and greatest source of impressions in direct, face-to-face interactions.

  • It is the yardstick against which your words and actions are measured.
  • It precedes and structures all subsequent communication.
  • It tends to be even more heavily relied upon if your words give a contradictory message.
  • It is one of the most revealing differences between powerful people and those with little or no power.

People sensitive to non-verbal cues tend to be perceived as better adjusted, less dogmatic, more extroverted, more popular, more effective in interpersonal relationships and more accurate listeners.


Effective Telephone Techniques: That Crucial First Impression

First impressions are lasting impressions. That’s why the first moments you spend on the telephone with a member are critical. Here are key points to keep in mind:

  • Have you answered the phone quickly enough—without being too quick? “Quickly enough” is generally within 30 seconds. Surveys indicate the phone can ring that long before customers begin getting anxious.

Surprisingly, answering “too quickly” can also make callers uneasy. A general rule to follow is to answer on the second ring. This buffer period gives customers a moment to get settled and collect their thoughts before speaking.

  • What are your first words? A friendly greeting such as “Good morning” is a pleasant way to start a conversation. Then follow with your first name and credit union or department. Providing such facts helps members know how your responsibilities relate to their call.
  • Are you speaking clearly and naturally? Be sure you are speaking into the telephone. That may seem obvious, but most of us have never heard how we sound on the telephone. Often people who speak in normal tones, face-to-face, sound too quiet over the telephone. Test your phone voice periodically by asking a co-worker to listen to you on an interoffice call.
  • Have you asked for the member’s name early in the conversation? Even if you don’t need the member’s name to answer a query, asking shows that you are interested in your members as people.
  • From the very first, do you treat the caller like the credit union’s “best” member? This positive approach applies even to callers who currently aren’t members, because they will never be your members if they aren’t treated well from the beginning.

Even before you’ve answered the phone, the member is forming impressions of you and your credit union. Make the most of the crucial first few moments!


How to “Adjust” Member Complaints

Any act of member complaint implies that on some level the member is unhappy—otherwise, he or she wouldn’t be writing or calling. Whether member service is specifically your job or you just happen to pick up a ringing phone, here are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Answer promptly. This includes not just picking up that phone quickly but quickly getting a satisfactory answer or action.
  • Get all the facts. Don’t “yes” the member and hang up before you find out what’s really wrong. You’ll just waste your time while also irritating the member, because the problem still won’t be fixed.
  • Admit mistakes. Admit the error (even if it wasn’t yours personally) and do what you must to correct it.
  • Never argue. You are the credit union in the eyes of the member.
  • Be polite.

Always leave the member satisfied. A particular problem may involve more time and effort than you first suspected, tempting you to arrange the easiest possible solution. Don’t fall into that trap. Do your best to achieve total satisfaction. Use the situation as an opportunity to “resell” the member on your credit union and get the two of you back to a trouble-free relationship.


The Magic of the Smile

The smile is the most universal of all expressions, said to be the shortest distance between two friends. It has the same meaning in every language, so it is the international symbol of openness and acceptance. A smile with positive eye contact says, “I acknowledge you, and I accept you.”

Some people are more generous with smiles than others. We all have an unlimited supply but some people seem to want to horde their smiles and keep them to themselves. And some take their smiles for granted and continually give that positive response to others throughout the day. Which category are you in? Smiling not only brightens the day of those around you, but research shows that it makes you have a much better day and feel better yourself. Try smiling when you don’t feel like it; in fact, smile especially when you don’t feel like it. And here are a few reasons why:

  1. Smiling feels good.
  2. Smiling makes others feel good.
  3. Smiling makes you look younger.
  4. Smiling gives you energy.
  5. Smiling can relieve stress.
  6. Smiling can lift your spirits.
  7. Smiling costs absolutely nothing but the value is immeasurable!

Practice positive body language, pleasant and affirming voice tones and wear a genuine smile. Make your credit union proud that they chose you to represent them!


Interested in Learning More?

Lynn Giuliani is the president and founder of Progressions, Inc., a consulting company specializing in sales, service and leadership training for credit unions. She has been an instructor for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) for 16 years and has helped more than 200 financial institutions move from a reactive order-taking to a proactive sales culture where representatives actively look for ways to help their members. Giuliani has personally designed five different business development programs, managed a group of commissioned paid loan officers, worked as a trainer for two international training companies and been one of the first commissioned paid calling officers in the U.S.

Giuliani will also be the featured presenter at two seminars at the Employees Conference, presented by the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) April 13-14 in Tigard, Ore. The Employees’ Conference is a must-attend program for anyone with member contact. The highly interactive format creates a dynamic forum for networking and sharing successful member-service concepts with other credit unions. The growth of employees’ skills, knowledge, aptitude to provide exceptional service and understanding of their credit union’s goals will help shape the future of their credit union and invest them more deeply its mission. 

Consolidating an array of pertinent topics, this conference will help credit union employees develop skills, increase member satisfaction and support the credit union’s bottom line.

Visit the NWCUA’s website to register or learn more about the conference agenda, speaker credentials and potential scholarship opportunities.


Questions? Contact Training Programs Coordinator Yuri Jung: 206.340.4817,

Posted in Events.