Member Satisfaction Is High. It Could Be Higher.

One study shows opportunity for credit union service in the year ahead.

More members, more problems?

At third quarter, the credit union industry counts more than 116 million members. That’s 20 million more than the industry totaled just five years ago, which represents a 25% growth rate over that period. That’s great news for the industry.

However, as memberships grow, so, too, do opportunities for blips in the member experience; especially important for an industry that prides itself on service. But the movement seems to be meeting the challenge.

The credit union experience still outpaces banks. That’s according to a recent study by the CFI Group.


The Ann Arbor, MI-based customer experience measurement firm reported an 86 for credit unions in its 2018 Credit Union Satisfaction Index (CUSI), as measured on a 0-100 scale, while banks posted a satisfaction level of 80. The CUSI measures the level of satisfaction customers have with retail banks and is calculated based on feedback from a panel of 497 respondents who have a current financial relationship with a credit union, according to the company.

The satisfaction gap between banks and credit unions continues to grow. In 2016, the satisfaction scores between banks and credit unions was two points, while today that gap has widened to six.

For credit unions, the satisfaction gap has been driven by the branch experience: the survey reports increased satisfaction in branch staff and branch convenience. In addition, of the seven satisfaction drivers, respondents rate branch staff as having a major impact on satisfaction; online banking, information/communications, mobile applications, products and services, and branch convenience as having moderate impact; and rates and fees as having minor impact.

2018 Satisfaction Drivers

Satisfaction Drivers Score (0-100 scale)
Branch Staff 89
Online Banking 89
Mobile Applications 89
Information/Communications 85
Products And Services 85
Branch Convenience 81
Rates And Fees 79

Source: CFI Group.

While that’s the good news, the report does identify room for improvement.

When it comes to resolving customer problems, banks may have an advantage, the survey reads.

Banks received a score of 82 from their customers when handling customer problems, compared to the 77 credit unions received from their members. Crucially, satisfaction between bank customers who experienced a problem and those who did not is the same; that cannot be said for credit unions.

While 10% of credit union members reported a specific issue or problem with an aspect of their service in the past 60 days (compared to 13% of bank customers), the gap in satisfaction between those who experienced a problem and those who did not is stark:


Experienced A Problem Did Not Experience A Problem
Banks 82 82
Credit Unions 77 88

Source: CFI Group.

According to the survey, credit union members who experience a problem are less satisfied than those who don’t and are less satisfied than their problem-seeing bank customer counterparts. CFI Group’s director of analytics, Rodger Park, suggested this gap may be the result of a difference in expectation.


Our results underscore the broader point that major banking brands benefit from nearly any opportunity for personal interaction with their customers, including fixing issues, as customers may not expect much from them in this regard, Park told CU Today. By contrast, credit unions don’t appear to have as much leverage to make hay out of customer issues, perhaps because a higher-touch service expectation may be baked into their value proposition.

Park’s quote highlights both the best of and best opportunity for credit unions in the coming years: Members expect and believe the credit union experience to be better than banks; when expectations aren’t met, financial cooperative perception suffers more.

So, what’s a credit union to do?

Across 2018, posted several case studies on the ways credit unions are working to enhance their service, whether through teller technology, self-service, refurbished branch concepts, and dedicated internal member experience teams. The industry knows one of its main points of differentiation is its member experience and continues to invest accordingly.

But what happens when members don’t receive the service they expect? Some credit unions, including Community First Credit Union of Florida ($1.6B, Jacksonville, FL) and BECU ($19.6B, Tukwila, WA), have focused on resolving complaints and escalating concerns with a common goal in mind: To keep members more than satisfied with the credit union experience, whether or not problems arise.



February 6, 2019

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