Research: How To Isolate A Problem

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A billion-dollar credit union, for the first time in its history, was experiencing negative growth. Although management could think of a variety of explanations, they wanted to isolate exactly what had to be done to reverse the trend.

Research triangulation–using multiple methodologies to converge on an issue– was employed to obtain different perspectives of what the solutions and opportunities might be. Three methodologies were used:

1. Employee focus groups, focusing on member contact staff, to understand the member experience from a front-line vantage point.

2. Closed account research to learn why members were leaving.

3. Net Promoter Score (NPS)/transaction research to learn how existing members felt about the institution.

The staff focus groups showed that accountability was inverted. Personnel at the lowest levels had total accountability and faced grave retribution for mistakes, whereas senior executives were not held responsible for expensive mistakes. The resulting fear-driven culture slowed service. People who had closed their accounts commented that staff was not knowledgeable, service quality was low, lines were long and that it took forever to accomplish anything. The institution’s NPS score was in the 30’s (i.e., zero) and the lowest on record, meaning members were unlikely to recommend the organization to friends and family.

Combined, the results pointed to significant infighting, lack of shared vision and total dysfunction among senior management. The solution to this systemic organizational issue was a total cultural overhaul, teambuilding and the development of a shared vision. While each methodology, used independently, would have provided useful results, it would not have presented the complete picture that was necessary to reversing the decline in membership.

However, don’t wait for a serious problem to begin taking advantage of research triangulation. If research is currently underway in various departments, get the conversations going, share the results and look at the organization from a system-wide perspective.

Neil Goldman is President of Member Research. He can be reached at 310- 643-5910 or ngoldman (c) 2008 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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