One of the cornerstones of the $2.3 billion credit union is member communication, said Laurie Gomes, director of market research at the Palo Alto, Calif.-based cooperative. Branch managers touch base within 48 hours to all members who indicated in Addison Avenue's weekly surveys that they have an issue and need help. The feedback has improved online banking, branch and call center hours and new account and new product processing.
"Ultimately, our goal is to have more profitable members who are so committed to us that they stay with us throughout their different life cycles," Gomes said. "They stay with us longer, use more of our products and services and help us grow by recommending us to others."
To help cement those relationships, Addison Avenue teamed up with The Member Loyalty Group, a CUSO that helps credit unions track member satisfaction and loyalty through the Net Promoter Score, a metric that holds companies and employees accountable for how they treat customers. Credit unions ask, "How likely is that you would recommend them to a friend or colleague?" Members respond on a zero to 10 rating scale and are categorized as promoters (score 9-10), described as loyal enthusiasts; passives (score 7-8), who are satisfied but "vulnerable to competitive offerings"; and detractors (0-6) defined as unhappy customers who can damage a brand through negative word-of-mouth.
Addison Avenue has consistently scored in the "promoter" range, Gomes said. The credit union industry as a whole has ranked quite high compared to banks, said Michelle Bloedorn, executive director of TMLG. The CUSO just released its first quarter NPS benchmark for credit unions. The results, pulled from surveys among 10,000 members, showed the average credit union industry score is 55% promoters, which was nearly five times that of the average bank NPS of 11% as reported in the Satmetrix Net Promoter Benchmark 2009 for Financial Services -Banking. The survey included credit unions ranging from 12,000 to more than 500,000 members.
"As a rule, retail banks are not the most loved organizations at this particular point," Bloedorn said. "It's fascinating to me that with everything going on over the past year and a half in the financial services industry, we haven't seen a drop in [satisfaction and loyalty] with credit unions."
Even promoters, who are credit unions' loudest cheerleaders, are not afraid to suggest specific ways to improve products and services, Bloedorn said. In a recent feedback survey, one member wrote, "I wish you guys could be more competitive in the mortgage market. You can't be beat for cars, boats." Other promoters recommended improving the Web site, more clarity on how a checking account rewards program works and providing the ability to make deposits at an ATM.
The credit unions' unhappiest members, the detractors, tend to have "blocking and tackling" problems that are fixable, Bloedorn said. A member may not have received checks or an ATM card, would like extended hours or may prefer seeing online banking history statements on one page.
Addison Avenue relied on satisfaction surveys in the past but the feedback tools never offered a strong gauge of member loyalty, Gomes said. Satisfied members still left the credit union when a better offer came along. The NPS tool helped to show just how committed and invested a member is with the credit union.
"It speaks to how a member feels rather than what they think. It speaks more to their heart rather than their head," Gomes said. "With their heart, the member feels that we know them, that we value them, that we listen to them, that we share their values."
Gomes acknowledged there was some initial hesitancy from branch managers on whether using NPS would add to already busy schedules. The staffers now look forward to the weekly communications, which help engage the members in conversations to help them find solutions.
"Our members are pleasantly surprised that we are really serious about listening to their input in order to improve their experience with us," Gomes said.
Before, member feedback was seen as more anecdotal, Bloedorn said. Boards and senior level managers might dismiss the opinions saying not enough members responded.
"Now, with feedback coming in all the time in a consistent and trustworthy way, it gives it more juice," she said.