Why Two Credit Unions Answer 'C'

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Q: What Do You Think About Online Surveys

A. Pop-Up Ads More Effective

B. Paper Surveys Work Better

C. Best Thing We've Ever Done

Members respond better to online surveys delivered via e-mail and website pop-ups than via website links, according to three credit unions with experience surveying members and employees online for the past two years.

"The response to surveys we send through e-mail has exceeded our expectations," said Mythraeyi Narayanan, marketing research manager at Meriwest Credit Union. "Even in terms of people opening up the e-mails with the links to the surveys, the response was far better than to other types of marketing promotions."

As a result, "for us, it will be full-steam ahead with online surveys in 2004," she said.

Up to five times every year, the $800-million CU e-mails members with links directing them to various online surveys, said Narayanan. In addition, Meriwest uses an online survey to ask for members' opinions about service quality every month.

About 50% of the targeted members open the survey e-mails, whereas only 15% of targeted members open e-mails regarding other marketing promotions. Furthermore, 20% of the targeted members actually click through from the e-mail to participate in the online survey, Narayanan continued. Only 4% participate in marketing promotions sent to them via e-mail.

Last year, Meriwest ran a one-month survey asking for members' opinions about online banking. About 1,500 of the 12,000 members who were e-mailed responded to the survey.

"Survey data showed that several improvements could be made to the homebanking product," said Narayanan.

As a result, Meriwest is taking a look at securing a new homebanking product.

Meriwest will continue this year to use its in-house survey software to ask members about service quality and various products. In addition, the 70,000-member CU will step up surveys targeted at non-members.

Narayanan said the credit union has shied from using website links to survey members. "We've tried surveying members from an online link, but we haven't gotten a very good response."

And Meriwest seldom surveys employees. "We're focusing our resources on gathering data which is more important to us-data from members," she said.

Paulette Best, systems analyst at Oakland, Calif.-based ChevronTexaco CU, confirmed that website links to surveys put a crimp in the CU's online survey program, which was formerly delivered via pop-up windows.

"When we changed our webhosting provider, we were no longer able to deliver surveys with a pop-up screen," Best said. "Instead, we had to provide a link on the homepage to surveys. Members had to proactively elect to go to surveys. That cut down on our responses significantly."

One year ago, ChevronTexaco wanted to get members' input on investment products in a survey linked from the CU's homepage. "We left the survey up for a full month, but we couldn't meet our response goal," said Best.

Still, the $785-million CU found that "the survey results were valuable," Best said. "Our CFO changed the concept for the investment products based on members' responses."

But ChevronTexaco's experience delivering surveys via website links may have spoiled future online survey initiatives. "We're using the software less than I thought we would with members, because it's harder to deliver now," Best said.

ChevronTexaco experienced stronger participation when surveys were delivered via pop-up windows, she continued. "In 2002, we asked members about why they chose our credit union's financial services. We were only after 500 responses. We got 700 responses in just one week."

And pop-up screens have worked well for Edison, N.J.-based Pinnacle FCU, according to Jeanne Chichelo, senior vice president. The $152-million CU used a survey platform provided by Herndon, Va.-based DigitalMailer Inc. last month to ask about members' credit card inclinations. "The survey broke a stalemate we had at the credit union by giving us more information from which to make business decisions," she said. The 33,000-member CU now plans to survey members once a month.

Meanwhile, ChevronTexaco CU has redirected much of its survey initiative towards increasing back-office satisfaction. Twice a year, about 70% of the CU's employees relate their experience working with other departments. "We're aiming to identify any shortcomings in service to use as feedback for department managers."

The 55,000-member CU writes online surveys with Inquisite software, provided by Austin, Texas-based Catapult Systems.

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