Establish Purpose Of Research Upfront, Or Pay Price At End

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Many years ago, Member Research conducted a comprehensive program for a Southern California credit union. It involved member surveys, staff surveys and potential member surveys. The good news: the credit union leaned a lot and felt the information was generally very positive and highly actionable. The bad news? The breadth of information was too overwhelming for the credit union to act upon. The credit union was simply not prepared to take advantage of the scope of the information and use it to improve operations, strategic and marketing plans and corporate culture.

A critical component of any research program is to clearly identify the purpose of research upfront and to provide a commitment of resources and analysis on the back end to turn the research into results. Without this commitment, it's easy for credit union personnel to become de-motivated and for research to fall into the DOA (dead on arrival) category we call, "the not another survey syndrome". This is one example of when research can be counterproductive.

Another example of counterproductive research occurs when credit unions over-sample their membership. Repeating surveys on one-time issues can alienate rather than ingratiate members. For example, member input on a new branch location or new name.) Similarly, failing to purge out recently surveyed members in ongoing transaction surveys can undermine both the members' relationships with the CU as well as the utility of the research.

In addition, perceptual research can be overkill if the information is already available through MCIF or core system data. For example, one credit union asked us to conduct research to understand why a new "family" credit card program in which children had access to their own family card with controllable spending limits wasn't more successful. We suggested the credit union first profile the members who already used the card. As a result, the credit union learned affluent families were the most frequent users of this product, and this particular credit union didn't have an affluent membership base. The product had already penetrated the market to the extent it could; no further research was necessary.

Be careful not to over-use or misuse research. If well conceived, with the right purpose, a solid plan, efficient processing and clear reporting, research can be a valuable critical management tool.

Neil Goldman is President of Member Research. For info: 310-643-6753 or www.memberresearch.com.

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