How To Take The Longer View

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When credit unions get the results from a survey, they often wish they had several years' worth of data against which to compare them. Yet even today they're not collecting certain types of information that could supply the baseline for future research. While today's answers are indispensable for improvement, they become much more valuable when tracked and trended over time. That's why the long view is as important in designing and implementing research as it is in strategic planning. Even the smallest sample of data collected today, when tracked and measured over time can yield significant results down the line.

Here are some simple ways of taking the long view:

Mergers. Prior to a merger, survey the members of both institutions to establish a baseline. Make sure to retain the ability to track both groups separately. One year after the merger, survey again to learn how happy the new members are.

E-mail. When the need arises for electronic data collection, wouldn't it be nice to have members' email addresses? Start collecting them now, even if it takes years to obtain them all.

Closed accounts. A single survey of why members are leaving isn't enough. Only long-term data can reveal whether the institution is in trouble.

Language. When a credit union conducted a survey in both English and Spanish, it discovered that Spanish-speaking members had significantly different perceptions and needs. Unfortunately, it had no way to track members according to preferred language. Think ahead, and start collecting language and similar demographic information now.

Don't let the urgent override the important-the long-term view. Dedicate significant time to the planning phase of any research project, consider its long-term impact and create long-term expectations.

More sophisticated, vision-driven research means more actionable information.

Neil Goldman is President of Member Research. He can be reached at (310) 643-5910 or by email at ngoldman

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