Research: What Members Really Want

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Semi-annually, Member Research surveys tens of thousands of credit union members nationwide to assess their interest in both existing and proposed products and services. Members rate their interest on a scale ranging from "Very Interested" to "Somewhat Interested" to "Not Interested." Items with a minimum of 30% "Very Interested" responses are compiled into a "Top 10" list.

Here is this year's list, in order of descending percentages:

1. Better rates; i.e., lower loan rates AND higher deposit rates

2. Identify theft services/protection

3. Free expanded ATM access

4. Expanded branch network

5. Free and interest-bearing checking

6. Photo on Visa card

7. Discounts/points for using multiple products and services

8. Online services: Internet banking, bill pay, online statements, budgeting and planning tools

9. Extended hours (Saturday, evening, morning); phone access 24/7

10. Financial planning; auto and/or homeowner's insurance

Of particular interest are items 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 10, new on this year's list. Members want to be treated as individuals, and a sizeable percentage want the credit union to "Take care of me!" In addition to convenience (3, 4, 8, 9), they also want to trust their institution implicitly for protection from fraud (2, 6), a rewarding financial relationship (1, 5, 7), and complete financial management support including insurance services and online planning tools (8, 10).

As consumer expectations grow year after year, the task is to stop playing one-upmanship with other institutions and to raise credit unions to a higher echelon with unique offerings that place them in a class all their own. One-upmanship is always a long-term losing endeavor, a financial drain that leads to diminishing margins without real progress. Creating a totally distinct niche is extraordinarily difficult, but will prove well worth the effort.

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

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