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The Human Touch in the Information Age: What Do Members Want?

This research provides insights on the importance of human touch in comparison with electronic and other non-human means of obtaining financial services and how preferences varies by the product and by the type of consumer obtaining the product.

  • William Kelly Center for Credit Union Research at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Executive Summary

Credit unions have held a traditional advantage in developing personal relationships with their members, and they excel in providing the human touch. With the recent, rapid proliferation of alternative, technology-based delivery channels, credit unions could find this advantage diminishing, perhaps rapidly, to the extent consumers switch to non face-to-face interactions for financial products and services.

Direct means (non face-to-face) may offer greater convenience as well as lower cost than face-to-face interaction. Therefore, credit union CEOs are asking whether personal, face-to-face relationships with members will no longer be significant, as consumers move to non face-to-face interaction to obtain financial products. Would such a development render credit unions largely indistinguishable from for-profit institutions?

What is this research about?

To answer the above question, researchers analyzed MacroMonitor data provided by SRI Consulting, Inc. The data was based on a survey of a representative national sample of 3,780 households, of which 1,655 were credit union households. The researchers investigated consumers' preferences toward face-to-face interaction versus direct (non face-to-face) means, and the extent to which these interactions varied depending on the demographics of the consumers. These preferences were examined across 15 different types of financial products and services.

What are the credit union implications? 

The results of this study make it clear that credit unions should provide financial products and services through different channels of delivery to meet the disparate needs and preferences of member groups. The key is to deliver the right mix of financial products and services through the right channels to the right segments of customers. The data provided in this study provide insights, which credit unions can use to enhance their ability to accomplish this goal.