Alterna Savings – Beyond Customer Engagement

alexis klein    February 4, 2015

Organization Name: Alterna Savings

Industry: Banking

Name of contact if available: Frugina Ball, Region Head, Member Experience, GTA

Web references: Alterna Savings


Earned Media – Take it Seriously

Now more than ever, consumers live online in their own “living and breathing” digital microcosm. In order for a company to reach out to its target audience (i.e. all consumers that purchase or would potentially purchase their goods or services), it must focus on and nurture what is referred to as earned media (online word of mouth, usually seen in the form of mentions, shares, reposts, recommendations). To do so, a company has to interact with their customers on a frequent and regular basis via social media. It is becoming quite apparent that earned media can “break or make” a company, in a nano second.

Companies that are not are allocating resources to engage their customers via social media as a way to control and benefit from earned media will most likely have to live with regrets very soon.

“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it” –Erik Qualman.

Brand advocates are brand BUILDERS!

Consumers are online, every minute of the day. They converse with one another, they share views on products and services and most important of all – they create their own digital community.  What companies have to realize is that THEY (the consumers) outnumber the COMPANY (all employees) in deciding what will sell and what will not.  In the end, the old saying that “consumers are always right” rings true.  Even the “giants” such as Target are not spared (Target Capitulates).

The Domino Effect:

Companies should therefore make every effort to engage with their customers at all times. By doing so, they will reap the benefits of the domino effect: turning loyal customers who buy their products on a consistent basis into a PR machine that encourages others they interact with to do the same.

The Reach of the Domino Effect ?

Consider these latest statistics and think…exponential connections between consumers via social media will trigger exponential product and service reviews which will in turn create earned media .

As of January 2014:

As of September 2014:

  • 71% of online adults use Facebook
  • 23% of online adults use Twitter
  • 26% use Instagram
  • 28% use Pinterest

Alterna Savings – Leading by Example

Alterna Savings is a Canadian co-operative and a credit union – it does not “deal” with clients, it caters to loyal members. Alterna is dedicated to supporting the communities it serves on a regular and frequent basis. Whether it is through sponsorships of community events, grants or micro-finance programs, Alterna’s primary goal is to “give back” to its members and communities while at the same time addressing their financial needs –“WE’RE BETTER, TOGETHER”.

“As a credit union, you, our members, are our heart and our raison d’être. Last year, Environics Analytics awarded Alterna their prestigious Client of the Year Award, for our industry leading approach to building a member-centric business”. – 2013 Annual Summary

A First on

In July  2013 the President and CEO of Alterna Savings hosted a Ask Me Anything session (AMA) on (this marked the first time a Canadian financial institution participated in such sessions). It demonstrated a clear commitment to accessibility and transparency.  Clear evidence that customer engagement was a key strategic initiative.


FRESH! – Delivered via Email

Alterna Savings produces, on a monthly basis, a newsletter delivered via email to all its registered members. It provides information on a wide range of subjects ranging from finances, investing as well as member and community stories. It incorporates a section that asks for member’s feedback and comments to nurture customer engagement.



Alterna Savings offers informative sessions on various themes  (i.e. Marketing your Vision) to its members who can access these on podcasts. This again demonstrates a commitment to engaging with customers via social media.

Networking Cafe:

The company facilitates for its members, in one of their central location, a forum for discussion focusing on top-selling business books. It is a novel way to create interaction with its members and engage in furthering dialogue. Sessions held are announced via their social media platform.

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn:

Alterna Savings is frequently engaging their members on these platforms in an honest and open way. Judging by their postings and messaging, they are not there to disseminate corporate messaging but rather to answer questions and share members’ concerns.

“To complement our physical community presence, our participation in social media through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, has helped expand our community reach, and establish a personal connection with you, community organizations and prospective new members”– Rob Paterson, President & CEO


Alterna’s Application for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users:

Innovative application that allows a member to see their balance without having to log in. This is a good example of using social media/innovation to engage and meet the needs of customers.

Utube Videos:

The company, as part of their commitment to community fostering and assistance, regularly participates in town activities and contributes to charities and sponsorships.  These activities are frequently uploaded on Utube for members to view.

Lessons Learned – Alterna Savings KNOWS Social Media:

This Canadian Credit Union has integrated numerous (and various) aspects of social media to further dialogue with their customers and actively engage them.  By interacting with them via different media platforms (such as LinkedIn, Utube, IPhone, AMA sessions to name a few), the company has clearly demonstrated a strong commitment to fostering and maintaining strong customer relations. Most important of all, it pays off…

“Strength in numbers is the lifeblood of our organization, and we’re delighted to report that 2013 saw a record increase in Alterna’s membership growth, as we welcomed almost 5,000 new members into the Alterna family” – Rob Paterson, President & CEO