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Times change. Member needs and wants change. Staff perceptions change. How recently (and how well) has your credit union changed to adjust? Research can provide the answers.

Consider an individual member's needs and wants from your credit union over time. For example, there is a dramatic difference for members between selecting a new financial service provider, and maintaining an existing financial service provider. To maintain relationships, two key elements are accuracy and superior service. But when it comes to starting relationships, convenience has long been king. (This too may be changing-read on.) Relationship building is very different at different stages. How can you learn what you need and how you are doing? Research. (Prospective member, new member, transaction, and member experience research.) Specifically, in the current economy, cost savings, security and advocacy have all risen in importance to members.

Consider whom you currently attract vs. whom you are actively targeting. Why do members choose your CU, and who are the members coming in? Do they represent the types of individuals you can best serve, and with whom you can build long-term relationships? Or are they simply the unintended consequences of a particular promotion, pricing, FOM, or delivery channel?

Even the key reasons and the ways in which members choose your credit union may be changing. In the past, four key drivers of when and why members change providers emerged: Life change or event: moving, new job, marital change, etc.

Pushed away: poor service, inaccuracies, excessive fees.

Pulled in: marketing offers and promotions (but which)?

Selling: Cross-sold through rapport and trust.

Today, the rules still may-and may not-apply. The Internet and virtual convenience are changing the game. The economy is changing the way members look at money. And now, trustworthiness, service and integrity actually have marketing teeth. But what is true for one credit union may not be true for another. Differences in field of membership, demographics, and psychographics matter. Now, more than ever, is the time to truly understand your members' wants, needs and perceptions. Now, more than ever, is the time for research.

When we emerge from the recession, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer noted he and his top executives believe the economy will not rebound, but rather "re-set" to a new, lower level of consumption. Competition may only intensify. Will you be ready?

Times are changing. Member perceptions are changing. Don't get left behind. Do the research. Learn and then act. Know your members. And you will continue to survive — even thrive — into the future.

Mike Anstead is Senior Vice President with Member Research. He can be reached at (949) 833-6901 or by email at manstead@memberresearch.com.

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