WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – When it comes to what members want, there is no such thing as having too much information. If properly crafted, member surveys help eliminate guesswork, identify your CU’s strengths and weaknesses and provide valuable market segmentation. Benefits can include increased use of services, improved member service and increased revenue for the credit union. “Any credit union that is committed to improving service should consider research,” said CUNA Market Research Director Jon Haller. “The old standard four or five years ago was that member surveys should be offered every three years, but now with competition and members’ needs changing so rapidly, every two years is what most CEOs and marketers want.” It is certainly what Herndon, Va.-based Northwest Federal Credit Union, which has been using member surveys since 1985, wants. “We constantly use and refer to our surveys until the next one comes out,” said NWFCU Marketing Manager Joan Stroud. “We used to do it every five years, then three years, but since we’ve recently expanded membership into select employee groups and given the changing marketplace and industry, we need it more often so we have the most up-to-date information to work from.” The $701 million credit union has used the results of last year’s survey, which focused on member satisfaction, to address the perception of inconvenience by partnering with State Department Credit Union to allow members access to an additional five SDCU ATMs free of charge. “We are also working on having more electronic services, and next month we are moving one of our branches into the community where more SEGs, retirees will now have two full-service branches meeting their needs,” said Stroud. According to Haller, the value of a survey comes from the customizable wealth of information to discover everything from membership characteristics, perceptions of the CU’s image, to why members choose another institution as their PFI, where new branches should be located and what new services members want or need. When it comes to survey delivery, the best choice depends on what the credit union is looking for. Generalized for the entire membership, mailings still have the leading response rate and are usually suitable for traditional satisfaction, service use and PFI surveys. However, Haller says Web-based surveys can be extremely valuable in tapping online members for feedback on a CU’s Web site, PC banking and/or online bill payment services. “Until 90% of members go online and access Web and PC banking, it will be a long time before Web surveys can be used to determine PFI,” said Haller. St. Marys and Affiliates Credit Union in Madison, Wisconsin survey results led the $12 million credit union to offer members check cashing, audio response, free checking, a Web site and lower credit card rates. “We have more checking accounts now than we ever had,” said St. Marys and Affiliates CU President/CEO Sara Marx. According to Haller, too many people believe common myths about sampling, such as all members must be sent questionnaires in order to obtain reliable information; a larger sample is needed for a CU with a larger number of members; and all types of members respond at a representative rate. “The reality is that the size of the population has virtually no influence on what the sample size should be- you only need a representative sample of members,” said Haller. “There are also certain groups, such as your PFI members, that can over-respond, so data must be weighted accordingly to avoid having biased or misleading results.” Other mistakes to avoid with mail surveys include: * Beginning with personal questions; * Cramming questions onto a page; * Asking too many open-ended questions; * Not sending a cover letter; * Sending surveys in newsletters or statements; * Not paying return postage; and * Not sending a follow-up mailing “The follow-up mailing is vital because your non-PFI members usually need that extra nudge to respond,” said Haller. “And typically their responses are different than the others who responded to the first mailing.” It generally takes up to one year to implement changes from survey findings and yet another year for members to recognize those changes have been made. According to Haller, benchmarking survey information is growing increasingly more valuable as credit unions can not only learn what’s working but also compare it to the extent changes were made from year to year. “As soon as we get our surveys, the marketing department delves in and starts to plan next year’s marketing strategy,” said Stroud. “And if something comes up mid-year that our members want then we refer back to it when developing that product or service. It is also good that we can compare ourselves to other credit unions our size both locally and nationally- it helps keep our ratings in perspective.” With all this research, benchmarking and market segmentation data attached to a price tag, which can range from $6,000 to $15,000, the worst mistake a credit union can make is letting it just gather dust. “Survey results have to be acted upon immediately and realistically,” said Haller. “So if given a list of 10 recommendations, the marketer, board and CEO would then need to quickly rank what they’ll focus on based on factors like cost, staff etc. and start implementing changes.” [email protected]

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