Research: Why It's Critical To Understand How The CU Is Perceived

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Word-of-mouth and reputation are two key motivators of why people do business with financial institutions. That's why it's critical to understand how members and potential members perceive their experiences at various points of contact. This knowledge impacts how credit unions can more effectively attract new members, generate increased deposits and reduce attrition.

Perceptions drive action. Accordingly, many research methods focus on the perception of members and the marketplace. Brand research, for instance, shows how current and potential members feel about and position the institution. An effective and distinct brand identity can dramatically impact any organization's success. Similarly, marketing impact research tests the perception created by awareness and ad campaigns. One such study, for example, ascertained that prospective members found a credit union's ad distasteful. The research led to a new ad, which in turn was more effective.

Surveys of SEG "ambassadors" can determine the strength of a credit union's relationship with these critical liaisons. Ambassadors who strongly believe in the institution are more likely to spread the word among fellow employees, encouraging new memberships and increased deposits.

Research can also point the way to new products to stimulate growth. One credit union contemplated a points program to encourage debit card use in place of cash. Through research, it learned that, among its membership, debit cards "compete" with credit cards for use, not cash. The same study also revealed that members were not making deposits due to the perception of comparatively low interest rates and liquidity concerns. Instead of launching an ineffective points program, the credit union introduced a new deposit product and experienced significant growth as a result.

In addition, research can illuminate the perception of members who are leaving. Since attrition reduces net growth, such studies are important because they may uncover correctable dissatisfaction with products or services, and/or other opportunities for improvement.

Growth is the result of leveraging strengths and minimizing weaknesses. Research is the means to identify opportunities in both.

Mike Anstead is VP of Sales and Service for Member Research. He can be reached at 310-643-6753 or manstead

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