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I’m joined by Pam Piligian from Navy Federal Credit Union. Welcome to the show, Pam.

Thank you. It’s great to be here, Greg.

We both lived in Atlanta, so we were kindred spirits, but more kindred on branding and the digital challenges that are out there. Could you tell us a little about your role and what you do now for Navy Federal Credit Union?

I’ve been here for years now. I’m the CMO at Navy Federal Credit Union. My responsibilities include reputation management, branding prospecting, digital properties, and everything from our website to our digital marketing, etc. We have 11 million members, but over half of them are younger than 35 years of age, us putting our digital foot front and forward is imperative.

You’ve got so many different geographic life-stage challenges. Talk a little bit about the big digital challenges you’ve been working on and what it is that you’ve been focused on in these last couple of years.

For us, it’s interesting. Our membership base is young. When you think about young, you automatically think about digital natives. That’s true, except as many of the brands have realized, and people are seeing COVID, everybody wanted this omnichannel experience. For us, it is about physical plus digital fiscal delivery of our service. Our members are very happy when they can check in the app and say, “Did their payment go? Are their paycheck in there? Did they transfer money correctly?” and all the housekeeping things.

We noticed they also want that human connection when they have a question. They aren’t sure what to do next, so they often will reach out. That has been for the branches as well as the call center. We have member service reps in our call center 24/7. We have tried to make sure that we are always offering the same service.

Sometimes, there are different types of banking functions. People will tend to be digital-first, and others will reach out to our people channel first. We try to make sure that we’re delivering that same service across because our standards are to be the leader in the CX experience and making sure that our members feel that we’ve got their best interest at heart.

We work at Monigle on the notion that you’re solving a human problem. In my first joke about digital, I went to a conference. I was on a panel and was like, “If it’s so great, why do we need to go to a conference?” It’s because there’s still that human connection that can’t be replaced. We’ve even figured that out through virtual working. How did you get to that balance of, “I need call centers in each of the branches to work in a particular way?” Did you do a journey mapping? How did you get there?

The answer is yes. I say that because we did a lot of things. If you look at the founding of our serving active duty military, they often have unusual hours of service. They also will have deployments where they are sent places across the ocean and the world, but their family members are still back here. 24/7 was originally part of our service against active duty, and knowing that they needed to be able to reach us whenever they were off duty where you could make a phone call. Often, if you think about sailors on ships, midshipmen, etc., they’re not able to get to the phone during office hours. We always were set up to be 24/7. It was about meeting the members’ needs.

Building a credit score is very different from planning for retirement.

As the member base has grown, so has the demands for that call center and physical service in the branches. We have about 350 branches across the nation, and 180 of those are near a military base. For us, that service delivery is how we tapped into it. To your point about journey mapping, we do journey mapping for different processes and procedures and try to make sure that we’re always putting our members first in those, but we also do a lot of old-fashioned listing. I have a little Post-It note next to my desk like, “Listen loudly.”

Sometimes, that’s as simple as listening to calls from a member. It is shadowing with a member service rep and seeing the types of things that are confusing members or the types of things that may not be confusing them. What are their frequently asked questions and how can we answer those faster and see where they’re at in their journey and meet them there? It’s been a lot of tools, both qualitative and quantitative, and continuing to evolve.

As you’ve heard from lots of brands, with COVID, things changed. We have branches. A lot of those branches have drive-thrus. During COVID, a lot of people were being served from the parking lot. When we monitor social media, we hear complaints about, “Why aren’t there more trees in the parking lot? Why is it hot out here?” In some markets, we got some tents and water and tried to help facilitate that. It is a lot of listening and adapting along the way.

It must be a tremendous challenge to meet all the different personas because you’ve got so many branches and so much geography. Has that been central to how you’ve crafted this solution? Are there some other insights, like how you built all the responses you have?

It has been, but it’s also been an evolution with our brand growth because we were founded around serving active duty needs. In active duty, often when people are listed, they’re between 18 and 24 years old, so they’re very young. They’re just getting started in their fiscal and financial journey. However, when we expanded our charter to include veterans, a veteran is anybody that left with an honorable service discharge.

Right after college, you could have served when you were young, got these careers, and now you’re doing an occupation very different from the military scattered anywhere. Part of it, because we’re a credit union and you have to qualify for membership, so we started with looking at your origin code like, “How did you join us?” If you joined us as active duty, you tend to have different needs than if you had joined us as a veteran or a family member. They also come with their own vocabulary because active duty will do PCSing, which is Permanent Change of Station for moves. That has a lot of financial implications.

As a veteran, you don’t care about that. When you’re moving, you’re just moving because you decided to. Ours started that way, and then we found out that wasn’t enough. We evolved into segments. We still use segmentation for a lot of things. We then developed into personas that we use primarily for our UX work. The segmentation does a lot for us in the context of getting to know you.

We’ve started with what you probably hear other people talk about, which is zero party data, which is what you tell us. We have members join. For our new members, we asked them, “What are your goals from day one?” Despite where you might be, your financial picture may be telling us what you have physically committed to because we’ll listen to that and then make sure that we put you on the right path to get the right information. If you’re building a credit score, it’s very different than if you’re planning for retirement.

That’s a fabulous information hierarchy because you have segments, personas, and different life stages. It must be quite the map just to get the messaging right in the right place at the right time. You’ve gone to 11 million members. It sounds like some programs are working. What’s on the horizon on your digital journey? What are you trying to solve?

We’re trying to keep up with it. As you know, there’s a lot of uncertainty now. People are thinking about what they do in this marketplace volatility and what kind of saving instruments they use. It’s how we keep up with that advice and make sure that we’re staying current with what’s happening in the marketplace, knowing that some of our members are facing and looking at inflation. How can they spend more of their dollars against gas, groceries, and living expenses because that’s what they need to do?

Personalization at scale is a real challenge, but that’s the real mission we are on.

For other members, it is how they can save money in the context of refinancing things and stuff. We are trying to do more predictive so that we can get to what we call the next best interaction, not the next best sales product or the next best thing I can sell you. It’s the next best interaction. It can be as simple as we know that you had fraud on your account. The next best interaction for you is setting up fraud alerts or setting up alerts for particular types of behaviors that you’re trying to track or ward off but doing that at scale. Personalization at scale is a real challenge, but that’s the real mission we’re on.

It sounds like you’ve got some analytic engines that give you some advanced warning. You’re focused on reinforcing the experience. It leads to them giving you more and that human connection and keeping people motivated on the journey across the portfolio, people you’re serving, at all times, day and night. Well done. That’s quite an accomplishment. On my final question, I usually ask people to say one word about digitally enabling brands and why they feel that way. What’s the word you think of? I can’t let you use listening because you already used that.

My one word on that would be, in a lot of ways, table stakes. We all have to do that. When you talk about it with your parents and children, they’re not talking about what’s the digital experience. They’re talking about how fast you get the shoes, the belt, or whatever you ordered. I’ll tell you one closing funny story about the whole listening and these table stakes. I assumed, in a time of COVID, everybody needed something happy.

That could have been as simple as sending them all a birthday greeting. We tried to do that for our 11 million members. We heard from a segment that said, “I know you know my birthday, but don’t remind me that you know.” They weren’t concerned about aging. They were concerned about privacy. We profile those that we had gotten the message, and most of them belong to a certain segment. We’re like, “No more happy birthdays for you, guys.”

That’s a real personalization because even a gesture of goodwill might be something that’s not the next best interaction for those folks. Pam, you are discovering a lot of things that our readers and clients are very interested in. I’m hoping they’re all following this one. It’s a great story. Congratulations on the tremendous success of digitally enabling a customer experience. Thanks for being on the show.

Thank you. Thanks for the invitation. We’re all in this together. It’s a journey.

Thank you. That’s it for the show. Thanks for reading. We’ll look for you in the next episode.

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About Pam Piligian

Pam is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Navy Federal Credit Union. As CMO, Pam leads all initiatives focused on brand and corporate narratives, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, digital and marketing trends and the road ahead for both the credit union and its members. She is the conduit between the organization and current and prospective members, keeping a pulse on the needs of both for their mutual benefit and success. Pam is passionate about accurately capturing what the credit union stands for, going beyond building brand awareness to generating loyalty and trust from Active Duty, veterans and their families. She is a leader motivated by doing what is right not only for the millions of Navy Federal members around the world, but also for the military community at large.

July 7, 2022 By Monigle