Member Experience with a side of Economics Series, Part 1 - Tucson Federal Credit Union

Member Experience with a side of Economics Series, Part 1

Written by Matthew Gaspari, Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer

I’m of the belief that conference attendance should result in actionable takeaways or the value is in question. If we leave with at least one idea that could materially influence the way we do business, then the conference has served its purpose and might be worth attending again.

In 2017, we attended the Future Branches Conference in Austin, and were three hours away from not coming back with at least one influencing idea, when one of the final presenters struck a chord that altered the trajectory of member experience delivery for Tucson Federal Credit Union. A side note, sometimes the connections are as valuable as the content, which was the case at Future Branches. The chance to spend some time with the director of the conference resulted in what this year will be three successive invitations to be a panelist. This sounds boastful, and in a way, I guess it is because the credibility that being a panelist brings is professionally meaningful. But the excitement for me has been the opportunity to tell TFCU’s story to thousands of banking professionals, the follow-up discussions, and the connections made with C-suite colleagues and other executives from financial institutions. All indicators that we have a compelling story to tell. I will get to the story that made such an impact in just a bit, but for context (you’ll understand why in a minute), let me introduce you to The Ritz Carlton.

The Ritz Carlton is a famous 5-Star hotel well-known around the world for their incredible customer service. When you stay at a Ritz-Carlton hotel, you are bound to be a happy guest, that is their entire mission, their entire purpose. The brand has significant consumer loyalty and advocacy, with 70% or more of the guests stating they will “definitely recommend” the Ritz to someone else, and more than half the guests saying they “definitely will” stay at that hotel chain again. (Kickham, 2018). The score referenced above is the equivalent of a Net Promoter Score, which TFCU uses to determine our impact on members and whether we’ve created the type of experience that motivates members to recommend and refer. The Ritz doesn’t come by this reputation accidentally, they live to serve their customers and have developed service standards over the years that are embraced by the entire staff. The premise behind creating The Gold Standards is if you want extraordinary service in your organization, you must first create standards of behavior, simple written guidelines for how people should behave at work with customers. (Doyle, 2017). Through the development and implementation of these customer service practices over many years, The Ritz Carlton has created an exceptional brand that is literally second to none in the hospitality industry, and I would argue in any industry. Their Gold Standards are the gold standard. And more important than creating the brand is sustaining that brand excellence long term, it is not easy in any business let alone the hospitality business.

Ok, that’s great information but does that have anything to do with TFCU or did I just waste 90 seconds of your time? Fair question. Before continuing with the TFCU part below, please see the service standards and core values from the Ritz Carlton. It is their path to success, so we chose to design something similar in purpose, but uniquely TFCU at the same time.

Future Branches Conference

Back to Austin, 2017. One of the final speakers at The Future Branches conference was Steve Langley, SVP of Member Services at SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union. He discussed The Ritz Carlton (ok, now I see) and shared a story about his stay that was both exceptional and transformative. He saw in the Ritz team a level of commitment and engagement that was noticeably different; it was tangible in fact. And the customer service that resulted from that committed and engaged staff was noticeably different as well. I know what you’re thinking, it’s the Ritz! Of course, they have staff like that! No, they have a staff that has fully bought into what the Ritz is doing, from the front desk, to the front office, and they want you to buy in too. The difference is in the way the company connects with its employees first and the pride the employees have in the brand. When you reach a point where your employees are as proud of the brand as the CEO, you’ve achieved a point where customer service can reach the next level. In addition to the Gold Standards, there was a repeated theme of service recovery in Steve’s story, which resonated with me because it accepts that mistakes can happen, but that each one is an opportunity to change the narrative. Is it the mistake we make, or the way we recover that becomes the story our members tell? We can control that narrative, but it takes intentionality, development and trust.

It is important at this juncture to state that Tucson Federal Credit Union has always been focused on member experience. We consider service delivery as the ultimate way to express our gratitude to the membership for their loyalty, trust, and faith in TFCU. I don’t want to imply anything was broken; it was not. I believe when things are going well it can be the optimal time to start making improvements, however. You start from a point of outstanding service and make incremental changes to reach the next level. When I say we resolved to make changes, the goal was to go from exceptional to off the charts exceptional, to get to the next level: 6th Star Service. In fact, that’s what we call the program, 6th Star Service.

In the next article, learn exactly what changed the direction of TFCU’s member experience delivery.

Doyle, S. (2017). If You Want to Improve Your Customer Service, Take a Look at How Ritz-Carlton Does It. Retrieved from

Kickham, D. (2018). Ritz-Carlton Guests Are The Happiest, According To New Survey. Retrieved from