Experience and Expectation

Difficult times, like the recent wind storm, test people’s ability to cope. They can provide an opportunity for kindness, empathy, patience, etc., but can also bring out the dark side in people. For example, with power out most everywhere and people clamoring for warmth, electricity or a hot meal, it was time to visit a local fast food joint. Like the holidays, when I ventured out, I expected it to be a bit dodgy; there would be signals out, roads closed and lots of people. I expected it. I prepared for it. Surely everyone would do the same. Nope! This was a chance for some to vent their frustration on an unsuspecting, overworked, underpaid teenager. Here I am, the place is packed and staff is swamped, so of course, having not received his coffee 30 seconds after ordering it, some guy decides it’s time to verbally abuse the cashier. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed, the incident passed, the person looked a fool, and everyone afterwards seemed more patient and understanding. Maybe that’s the silver lining; when people saw that behavior, their reaction was to be better.

Everyone has expectations; some are reasonable and some are not. At Freedom, our goal is to meet or exceed those expectations even though doing so can be a challenge (like the situation above). In those cases, we show we are better by listening, empathizing, being patient, etc. even if it doesn’t always help. Sometimes the calmer we are the angrier people get, but most times it diffuses the situation and shifts expectations. More importantly, we expect that how we react will be an example for any onlooker; that we can decide to be better; that we set the expectation for others. Errors and complaints are part of the job and have to be addressed, but there are limits. No one is to be abused, intimated, or made to feel uncomfortable.

Our strategic goals focus on both the member and employee experience. One easily influences the other and Freedom has expectations for each. As a result, members and employees alike bear responsibility for their actions and are held accountable for the affect they have on the overall Freedom experience. We will, therefore, do everything possible to provide services, meet needs, or resolve an issue; but protecting the physical and emotional well-being of those involved while creating a positive experience for all is an absolute priority.

We Must Agree

It’s been a while since I did a Freedom Philosophy and two days after yet another tragic school massacre any words of motivation about the credit union, our services or building relationships, seem unimportant and pale in comparison to the overwhelming need to focus on much larger issues. Sadder still, as I sat down to compose this, I came across a philosophy I started to write, but did not send, back in November 2017. It started like this:

I’m tired of it. I can’t take it anymore. I’m fed up with hearing about people running over people with cars; shooting inside and outside schools, churches, nightclubs or concerts; homemade bombs on subway trains; the constant killing and blatant disregard for life perpetrated by and on, every age, race, religion, sex; everyone and anyone that walks the earth without discrimination. How did we get here?

I never completed it because when I got to that question I realized I couldn’t answer it. Worse yet, if I tried, I could potentially outrage or alienate people Freedom depends on for its success. What does that say? As a person I should be able to express opinions, express contempt for a system, society or government that fails to protect its people. As CEO, however, I must be careful about what I say and concerned with how they can positively or negatively influence. The impact of any stance I take, or comments I make, can be far reaching in terms of the ability of the credit union to serve or even survive. Boycotts, loss of business, driving a philosophical wedge between the company and community, can spell catastrophe. Is there common ground?

Yes. We can all agree that the taking of innocent lives in such ways as we have become accustomed to must end. Regardless of the why, ideologies, rights, philosophies, underlying issues and so on, we can all agree something has gone terribly wrong. More importantly, we can all, in our own way, agree to stand up, be counted, and find answers; not only to the question, “How did we get here?”, but also, “What can we do?” As we do, we can also agree, at the very least, that we must try to make the world a better place by respecting one another, caring for one another and realizing that we actually have the power to make a difference with every word, every action or inaction, every day.


Can We Talk?

I was recently sitting in a restaurant.  At the table next to me were a father and son. It was an average scene with seemingly nice people; the father apparently just off from work or on a lunch break and the child was about 5 or 6. What caught my attention was the dynamic between the two.

The father sat quietly looking down while eating and the child, with food of his own, stared down at a tablet playing a video game. I watched and waited. Minute by minute the scene played out the same way with only one variation; a request for ketchup which was quickly supplied. There was no interaction, no communication, the entire time.

This is not to say the man wasn’t a loving father or the child a devoted son. What it said, to me, was that something fundamental has changed in our society and I found myself wondering what the future held for us all.  We can blame the technology, even though it has benefits. We can blame the people, even though they may be the kindest of souls.  The blame is not the issue, the choice is.

It’s the same for Freedom. We push technology to make things quicker, easier, convenient, but it can never replace the human interaction necessary to forge a lasting relationship. Both people and technology, whether utilized or not, must be accessible for members.  It’s not a question of one over another. It’s a service choice the member will make.  ome members feel better when they deposit a check remotely; others feel better when they interact with an individual. The focus then in either case is the member experience and what we do to ensure that is positive. That’s what is remembered. Not that we have automation or people, but that we are there when you need us. So when we think about the convenience of technology also consider that if someone comes into a branch or calls us on the phone, it’s because they want that interaction, that connection, and that shows the important role we play in the credit union experience.