Perception, Reality & Complaints

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Credit unions commonly complain that members grade them poorly on technology even though they keep adding new bells and whistles to their automated delivery channels.

What's behind these complaints is not so much a lack of advancement, but rather the members' perception that their institutions are not keeping pace with competitors. The data, derived only from internal comparison, remains in a vacuum for want of peer comparison across multiple institutions. Both internal and peer comparison are necessary if research data are to enable corrective action.

Is it enough to conduct a peer comparison once? Never. Say a credit union scores 60 on its first peer survey while its peers score 59. So far, so good. Then, its next three years' scores are 63, 65 and 68, so it appears to be headed in the right direction.

However, if the credit union's peers score in the mid-80s by then, the institution is far behind. Since peer comparison is difficult without peer data, it's necessary to rely on a third-party research provider or association that can share peer data anonymously.

Consistent internal comparison is also vital for more effective communication and accurate targeting. For example:

Members' needs change as they progress through life. Thus, research that compares members based on age and income allows precise market segmentation.

Members have different perceptions of an institution depending on their proximity to a branch. Insights gained from comparisons can help the credit union capitalize on issues affected by convenience.

Newer members have different experiences from long-time members. By comparing and contrasting members based on length of time as a member, one can learn how perceptions evolve over time.

Peer comparison is a great motivator. When a credit union found itself below the peer average on 12 indexes, it set the goal to improve.

Within five years, it was above average in eight of the 12. Comparison in general adds a fresh dimension to research that brings new life to marketing.

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

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