Why The Broad Membership Survey Still Has Great Value

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In recent years, general member surveys have taken a backseat to research that focuses on members' experiences with individual transactions. While it's important to gauge performance at the transactional level, broad membership surveys still play a vital role, particularly in providing single-number indexes that can be tracked and trended over time. Credit unions that concentrate on viewing the trees without a complementary bird's-eye view of the forest are missing the big picture.

First, tracking response to members' most recent transactions has undeniable merits. Yet, gauging their accumulated experience is critical for the establishment and reinforcement of brand identity. It's also a prerequisite for strengthening relationships with current members who don't engage in frequent transactions. Remember, existing members are the most profitable source for additional business.

Further, general member surveys and single, tractable indicators derived from the results are invaluable for identifying red flags. Narrowly focused transactional surveys can miss areas in greater need of attention.

One or more single-number statistic derived from general member surveys can also be plugged into corporate scorecards tied to performance indexes or bonuses. They provide meaningful, actionable statistics for boards and senior managers who don't have time to deal with volumes of global data. At the same time, detailed survey data can be shared across departments to initiate process improvements.

Single-number indexes derived from general surveys also facilitate cross-industry benchmarking. One institution that conducted such a peer comparison found that it rated below average on seven of ten indexes. This prompted a five-year improvement plan, which brought the institution to above average on eight out of ten indicators.

A member survey remains a valuable instrument if the overwhelming volume of information it generates is reduced to single-number indicators in selected categories that are: (1) understandable to board and senior management, and (2) actionable at the department level.

Neil Goldman is President of Member Research. He can be reached at (310) 643-5910 or by email at ngold1 aol.com

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