Service failures are not fun, but they are instructive. Consider the following comments from credit union members responding to the question “What’s one thing we could have done to make joining the credit union easier for you?”: “I was encouraged by several of your employees to join [Credit Union] and told the easiest and quickest way was online. I applied online for a savings account on April 19. On May 13, I emailed to ask what else it would take to open a simple savings account. So what one thing could [Credit Union] have done? Inform ALL new account applicants that applying for and being approved for a savings account could take from 3 to 4 weeks. I wish I had just gone by your branch.” From another member: “Respond to emails and let me know in advance that it would be about a month before I would actually be able to drive the car I put the loan on.” Although these comments represent a minority of responses, they help shed light on why it’s essential to quantify how easy (or hard) it is to complete transactions at your credit union.
What Is the Research About?
While it’s still important to track factors like member satisfaction and Net Promoter Score, Filene sought to test the value of using a member effort score. Three primary research questions guided our analysis:
- What does “good” member effort look like?
- Once we realized that mortgage lending and new memberships took undue effort: How can credit unions improve their mortgage lending, problem resolution, and new membership processes to resemble that of consumer lending?
- Can a member effort score help credit unions track progress to improve core lending and member engagement?
Using an online survey, Filene collected data from 5,247 members across 16 credit unions to examine member experiences in one of four different contexts:
- Getting a consumer loan (n = 2,426).
- Getting a mortgage (n = 515).
- Opening a new account (n = 1,552).
- Using phone support to resolve a problem (n = 754).
What Are the Credit Union Implications?
While credit unions have good reasons to track satisfaction and Net Promoter Score, understanding how easy it was to complete a transaction can offer more actionable feedback. We found wide variety in ease-of-use scores among the 16 credit unions. But some common themes and recommendations emerged:
- Lending benchmarks. Credit unions excel in consumer lending but do not do well if a member applies for a mortgage or joins the credit union via the web. Mortgage lending, regardless of channel, scores poorly. Credit unions should identify their own consumer lending best practices and seek to replicate them across mortgage lending.
- Improve handoffs. Poor performance from web-initiated mortgages and membership applications, with poor handoff and subsequent communication, is negatively impacting members’ willingness to give future business to the credit union.
- Mortgage status checks. If mortgage volumes are high, establish an accurate online communication hub to communicate the status of the mortgage loan.
- Quick and clean processes. Approve online membership and loan applications quickly if a manual process is involved. Members expect that when they apply online, the process will be easier and quicker than going into a branch.
And track, at least on a trial basis, how easy to use members feel your processes are. Their responses will surprise you.