Research: What Really Gives Consumers A Wow

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When it comes to satisfaction, the more invisible the institution, the more satisfied the consumer. In other words, satisfaction means no mistakes and no hassles. As one focus group participant stated, "I want a credit union that I never have to think about."

But what does it take to exceed expectations? Here are a few suggestions.

* Be responsive. Return phone calls immediately. When members have problems, take care of them quickly. When they call for a loan, have the check waiting when they arrive.

* Follow through on commitments. Sad but true, people no longer expect efficient follow-through, so when they get it, they are wowed.

* Provide personal interaction in place of automation. For example, when an institution's phone banking system failed, it rerouted calls to live representatives. It received so many compliments that it decided to continue using the personalized system during regular business hours.

* Be proactive. Look out for members' interest as a form of "financial partnering" or "financial altruism." Go beyond the now-standard credit card verification calls when members use their cards out of state. Contact members, not to sell, but to offer to improve their situation. For instance, when mortgage rates fall, offer a quick, hassle-free refinance for a lower rate. Or, suggest ways they can increase their balances to receive a higher rate on deposits. Always be non-threatening, and don't ask for commitments.

* Remember the "three As" when there is a problem: acknowledge, apologize and accommodate. It's not enough to fix the problem. Wowing members requires compensation for their trouble. Try movie tickets or an interest rate bump on deposits.

To rate the credit union's success in wowing members, use transaction surveys to assess members' experiences at specific points of interaction (e.g., teller line, loan application), or, use new member surveys to measure the new member experience. Even a little difference can make all the difference in attracting and keeping members.

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

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