Tis the season, or so we’re told. And although sometimes it’s hard to wrap up the year, we decided not to be Grinches. Rather, we’d like to spread a little good cheer—and great member experiences—to our friends in CU-ville. (Doesn’t exactly rhyme with “Whoville,” but that’s okay.)
Maybe we’re watching too many Hallmark movies. Or maybe it’s one too many holiday parties. But we just couldn’t get the “12 days of Christmas” off our minds.
So, we wrote up 12 survey best practices for credit unions and other financial institutions. With any luck, this list will be the gift that keeps on giving*!
*to your member experience team
12 Survey Best Practices for Financial Institutions
- Ask for the member’s overall experience/rating first. You don’t want to influence this answer by asking smaller, more nitpicky questions before you get to the biggie; asking your member several individual questions and before asking for an overall rating reduces the validity of that all-important rating. (Maybe you’ll remind them of a bad experience!)
- Limit your survey to a reasonable number of questions. You want your responses to come from the mainstream of the people you’ve sent the survey to, rather the response be skewed to only recipients with the time and patience to slog all the way through a too-long survey.
(Do you really want to know only the preferences of members who took the time to answer a thirty-question survey without leaving a single answer blank? You’d hear only from members who tolerate a lot.)
- Only offer a small number of ratings choices. Generally, I suggest 1–5 as your rating scale; 1–3 might be even better. Definitely don’t go as high as 1–10 if you can help it; it’s fruitless to expect a survey participant to choose between 10 different possible ratings! I mean, c’mon! What does a “6” even mean?
If you’re using an NPS survey, maybe you can let this one slide…
- Phrase your response categories in the most concrete language possible. Don’t use rating categories like “excellent.” “Excellence” is essentially indefinable, so look for something that is based on your member’s own experience. Consider calling your top rating something emotive and simple, such as “Loved it!” or “Wonderful!”
- Don’t expect your members to be mathematicians. Demanding participants make calculations along the lines of, “estimate your chances of returning to our store this month in terms of percentage of 100” will create confusion and frustration.
- Don’t use internal jargon. You need to speak the language of your members, rather than your internal lingo. Don’t measure time in quarters. Don’t expect them to know about chargebacks or interchange rates. Just say things in plain English. (However: if all of your members are from the same industry, as is common in B2B, you can certainly use jargon that is familiar to them.)
- Surveys are most meaningful if completed soon after a member’s experience. This means that you need to survey members soon after a transaction or triggering event, and that you need to close the window for accepting responses not long after. (An exception to this principle, of course, if you’re sending out a survey asking about a product’s longevity and such.)
- Don’t hassle recipients for not filling out your survey. Maybe remind them once. I wouldn’t remind them twice. These are your members; they’re not obligated to do what they’re not interested in doing.
- Include a free-form text field or fields to leave room for novel responses that you may not have even considered and to offer your members an opportunity to express themselves.
- Be sure to respond personally and promptly after receiving strongly negative feedback. And don’t set a batch of surveys aside for later en masse response without scanning them in a timelier manner for negative responses that require immediate replies.
- Be sure to thank anyone who offers personal praise on a survey. A handwritten note is a wonderful way to accomplish this if you have the member’s physical address. An email is also fine, as long as it’s clearly from a real person and not boilerplate.
- If you send out similar surveys over time and expect to compare results, it’s essential to understand that you cannot change anything in your delivery approach, introductory materials, or survey content without making your results impossible to compare as apples to apples. One of the consistent findings of social psychology and behavioral economics (aka “psychology with a name-change for marketing purposes”) is the often-intense and disproportionate effect of what would seem to be small, even trivial, changes in circumstances. In the world of surveys, this means that, for example, there can potentially be huge effects from changes as apparently minor as:
- Changing your survey’s introductory language, or even it’s subject line
- Changing whether your survey’s delivered by email or weblink
- Changing the number of days until it’s sent out and how long it remains open for responses
- Changing the number of choices per question
If you’re trying to measure something over time, don’t change the survey over time. It will skew your results.
As the year rolls to a close, we want to thank all of you for making the financial world a better place. If you read our blog, then you’re fighting the good fight:
You help members take control of their finances—and you care about their experiences.
So, thanks for reading. Happy surveying. And please, allow yourself an extra cookie or glass of eggnog this season. You deserve it.
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