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Report #347 | | Members | Sign In

The Personal Touch: Optimizing Feedback Loops in Financial Services

Credit union operations are full of feedback loops. With the input of your members’ data and delivery of continual reinforcement, your credit union will be positioned to influence behavioral change.

Executive Summary

In 1987 the fast-food giant McDonald’s found a way to sweeten the pot for hamburger lovers with the launch of its inaugural Monopoly promotion. Customers purchasing select food items during the promotion receive Monopoly game pieces that provide chances to win a wide variety of prizes: from an order of french fries to a million dollars in cash. Patrons can win prizes with “instant win” pieces or by completing a set of color-coded pieces that are organized on a Monopoly-inspired game board. The more you dine at McDonald’s, the more chances you have to win. Instead of receiving funds Tuesday for a hamburger today, McDonald’s seems to be paying customers every day—in food and fun.

While clearly a game, and a thinly veiled sales promotion, McDonald’s Monopoly promotion is also a well-crafted feedback loop and a prototype for how credit unions can drive deeper engagement.

What is the research about?

A feedback loop is a system in which a user’s action filters through a set of rules and the impact is then communicated back to the user.

Action → Rule set → Impact communicated (loop back)

Some feedback loops are short. Touching a hot cookie sheet without an oven mitt delivers clear and immediate feedback. The rule set is physics and biology, and the impact communicated is pain. The college admissions process is a much different experience. Applicants supply myriad, complex information; the rule set is opaque, and many months pass before a status update completes the loop.

For the purposes of this report, a feedback loop has three core components:

  • System input — How users are prompted to interact with a system, and what mechanics are involved with conducting that interaction
  • A “black box” — How input is processed by the system
  • A feedback channel — How processed input and associated state changes are relayed to the user who provided the input

What are the credit union implications?

Credit union operations are full of feedback loops. Optimizing these systems can improve engagement, excitement, and skills. Employee, board, or member relationships can be made more meaningful and productive. Well-designed feedback loops can differentiate a credit union from the mass of financial institutions that cling to the idea that the old way of doing business is good enough.