Favorite Things

You know what some of my favorite things are?  When two people are walking down the sidewalk side by side and another couple approaches also walking side by side, I like when someone from each pair goes in front or behind the other, single file, so passing is easy.  I like it when I see people walking through a parking lot, picking up trash and properly disposing of it even though it isn’t their trash.

Know what else?  I like it when you hold a door for someone, and they say thank you or when you let someone in in front of you while driving and they give you a wave of appreciation.  I think I like these things more than ever because they seem to be getting rarer and rarer.  They shouldn’t be rare.  They should be commonplace, common courtesy, common sense, whatever you want to label it.

It sometimes seems human beings have become an entitled bunch.  Can’t get to the front fast enough, can’t wait, can’t understand, can’t talk, can’t empathize.  As the Beatles song goes, “All through the day, I, me, mine. I, me, mine, I, me, mine”.  I realize that doesn’t apply to everyone, but it sure seems more frequent than ever.

That’s why, at Freedom, we emphasize the little things.  A greeting, a smile, a pleasant tone, a commitment to help, to serve and deliver a positive experience even if the face of difficult times.  We can’t change the world, but we can do our part, and by our example, we encourage others to do the same.

Technology Makes Things Better…Sometimes?

I was walking on the trail a couple days ago when my son Face-Time’d me from Portugal. It was just to touch base and let me know everything was fine. From 3,500 miles away it was like he was right next to me. That still amazes me. On the flip side, I made a call the other day from my office phone and had to leave a message. In that message I asked they call my cell phone and left that number, three times, only to have the call returned to my desk phone because that’s what popped up on their caller ID. Forget that I left a detailed message with specific instructions to call my cell. Their systems provided a number so why actually listen to my message?

Technology can be great. It can make life easier, convenient, help get things done faster, and so on, but it can’t replace good old-fashioned human interaction and attentiveness. We have the capabilities that allow members to do pretty much anything they want without interacting with a human being, yet they continue to do so. They call on the phone, they come into the branch, they send emails because they have a need.

Sometimes the technology alone can meet a need, but other times the need is more than transactional or informational. Members want understanding, compassion, someone to give advice or talk over options with. We are more than order takers; we are financial representatives, experts in our field, people that help our members make better decisions that can have a positive impact on their lives.

There are tremendous benefits to technology. We all need it, and depend on it; but we never lose sight of how important our members are. A cell phone can’t shake a hand or show appreciation; a PC can’t help you deal with an unexpected life change; a loan system can’t explain the benefits and risks of a purchase. There is an art to conversation and a physical and emotional benefit to engagement. Technology is just one tool we use to create the Freedom experience, but we never lose site of the importance of conversation.

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.