So you've decided to embark on a member survey for your credit union. We say, good decision. But we're biased because we've seen the value market research can provide a financial institution. Methodologies like surveys, focus groups, and mystery shopping give credit unions the knowledge, power, and confidence to make fact-based and evidence-based decisions.
Decisions based on data positively influence your credit union's operations, marketing, and strategy.
The first question you're likely asking yourself, is could we complete our member survey in-house or should we use a credit union market research firm? Let's touch on that a bit.
Could we do our member survey in-house? Probably. But do we have the time, expertise, and know-how to pull it off well and ensure we are doing it well? We're not sure.
Benefits of Using a Market Research Firm for Your Member Survey
The largest benefit of conducting a market research study with members in-house is dollar savings. We use “dollar” savings because there is a significant amount of time and attention that will be needed in-house to manage the project.
So although you will not be paying to work with a consultant, your in-house staff will still be spending their time managing the project rather than working on other credit union priorities.
Here are the 4 benefits of using third-party market research for your member study.
Benefit 1: Confidentiality
Using a third-party ensures members results will remain confidential. Members may not respond if they believe feedback will be singled-out and tied directly to their name or account. Using a third-party as a middle-company eliminates this concern and opens up doors for all to respond (happy members, unhappy members, and everything in-between).
Benefit 2: Perspective
Using a third-party adds a new set of eyes, innovative ways of interpreting data, and new approaches that can translate insights into action. Without an objective point-of-view, clients can often misinterpret or overlook key findings. A market research firm forces everyone to take a step back and view results strategically.
Benefit 3: Expertise
Market research firms work on customer and member surveys day-in and day-out. They know how to spot potential issues and know what can be done to set the project up for success. Most importantly, they can add context and comparisons from other financial institutions as a way to teach best-practices and make recommendations.
Benefit 4: Capabilities
Third-party firms have access to advanced tools, software, and capabilities to assist with your member survey. These include building in advanced skip patterns in the survey, offer live-data links to view responses in real-time, and analysis systems to create comprehensive and detailed reports which summarize the findings.
Not sure which advanced capabilities their survey tools can offer your credit union? Here are 6 examples.
Member Survey Options
Okay, now that we've discussed the benefits of in-house versus using a member survey firm, let's dive into 3 of the most common quantitative options for your member survey. Here is a look at some pros and cons of each of the 3 potential quantitative approaches for member surveys.
A quantitative approach is suggested for credit union because member surveys are meant to measure experiences and relationships. Qualitative approaches (focus groups, etc.) are better suited to explore a topic or idea.
Not sure whether you should measure or explore? Here is a breakdown of qualitative versus quantitative market research.
Each option listed has its own unique pros and cons.
Option 1: Member Mail Survey
Your market research firm would use a contact list with mailing addresses provided by your credit union to mail a paper version of the survey to members. This approach is a bit more personal and could include a cover letter from an executive at the credit union.
An online link would be included on the survey with a code if they prefer to take the survey online. Disadvantages with the mail survey are cost (i.e., printing, assembly, postage, return postage, and data entry). Fieldwork remains open for 3 to 4 weeks to allow ample time for response. This gives all an opportunity to respond.
A response rate of 3% to 10% is expected. This is impacted by a number of variables.
Option 2: Member Email Survey
Here, the market research company would use a contact list with email addresses and phone numbers provided by your credit union to send an online survey to members. It is recommended the credit union send a letter or email to members 1 week before fieldwork to explain the upcoming survey and its importance.
A block of phone call hours can be purchased (20+, 40+, etc.) to call non-responding members and either remind them to take the survey or complete the survey by phone. This is only necessary if the response rate falls below expectations.
Option 3: Phone Survey
The credit union market research firm would use a contact list with phone numbers provided by your organization to call member businesses and households. This approach is the most personal reach-out and live interviewers can communicate and dive into feedback with a computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) script.
Similar to mail surveys, this approach is more expensive. Once 400 completed surveys are obtained (+/- 5%) margin of error, fieldwork is closed. Fieldwork will take approximately 2 to 4 weeks depending on the willingness of members to participate.
Recommended Approach: Online Surveys with Phone Follow-up
Email member surveys provide credit unions the best ROI because they are the least expensive, offer a quick-turnaround, and offer quality feedback. A mixed-mode approach can be explored (e.g., introductory letter mailed to participants mentioning the upcoming email survey, fieldwork is completed through email invitations and reminders, and phone calls placed to non-responding members).
The chart explains some of the high-level pros and cons to each of the 3 member survey approaches explained in this article.
Drive Research is a member survey market research firm who assists credit unions. Interested in learning more about our bank and credit union services? Read more here.