MERRIFIELD, Va. — Navy Federal Credit Union is now usingsophisticated tech tools to get detailed feedback regardingindividual members–about 150,000 so far this year.

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Findings from the predictive analytics and data mining softwarefrom SPSS Inc. have helped the world's largest credit union decideto, among other things, offer unlimited free online bill pay, booststaffing at its call centers and embark on an aggressivebrick-and-mortar expansion.

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In fact, the SPSS software is now “permeating every strategicunit in our credit union,” said Alan Payne, manager of memberresearch and analysis planning at $35 billion Navy Federal.

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Payne said four people in his group now use the software on adaily basis, along with another 20 to 25 people on a daily orregular basis around the big CU.

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Payne's team produces surveys that are then mailed to members,36 so far this year alone. That includes a monthly satisfactionstudy that has produced almost 47,000 responses in one data setalone, looking at about 1,000 variables.

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“What's beautiful about this software is that you are able to docomplex sampling, to take different samples from differentrespondents around the world, and we can easily exclude the samerespondents from being surveyed for two years, so you don't ask thesame people the same questions,” Payne said.

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“For example, we were able to learn that improving response timeon the telephone and increasing the number of branches were bothkeys to improving member satisfaction,” he said. “We were able togo to our management and then eventually our board of directors andshow them how this would help, with specific information on howthings like living 10 or 20 or 30 miles from the nearest branchchanges responses.”

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As a result, Payne said, the 3.1 million-member Navy Federal hasadded 34 branches in the past year, giving it 151 around the globe,with plans to add another 21 this year.

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Another example was the decision to change the online bill paypolicy from a system that required members to use it three or moretimes to get the service for free to unlimited free bill pay.

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“The uptake on that was substantial,” Payne said.

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Other uses Navy Federal has found for the software includeportfolio and valuation analysis in the lending department andemployee surveys by human resources specialists.

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Navy Federal is one of about 60 credit unions on the SPSS clientlist, said Richard Hren, the Chicago-based company's director ofproduct marketing.

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He said SPSS has about 250,000 customers “and we do a lot oftalking to them. We have an active customer advisory board, and wefold much of that into the next release cycle. It's an ongoingdevelopment of the software.”

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Payne said the software is able to handle everything from simplecorrelations to complex algorithm relationships and can be used by“an analyst with one year experience just as easily as someone with20 years of experience. That allows us to get the maximum returnout of our investment in these tools.”

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The ability to show statistically significant “lifts in membersatisfaction” after bolstering the call center and branchoperations also has proven powerful in establishing the software'sworth, Payne says.

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Return on investment can be hard to show empirically, but Paynesaid, “in this case it's very high and very powerful. We can showwe're using the right methodologies to track member satisfactionand initiatives and to continually improve service.”

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