Taking Consumers’ Pulse Is More Critical Than Ever During COVID-19

You might think that conducting consumer polls would be seen as annoying or intrusive when many people are either isolated for the duration of the pandemic or out there busy supporting the rest of us. However, a Maryland financial institution found that people actually like sharing their feelings and opinions in the midst of a crisis.

For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, banks and credit unions have been grappling with anxiety on two fronts — among consumers and among employees.

Inquiries coming in via the call center, social media, website forms, mobile banking and in-person consultations are reaching all-time highs. Safety measures put in place to keep employees healthy, such as remote work, appointment-only financial centers, and face masks, remind us daily that things are really not “business as usual.”

No amount of optimism can change that.

Like many financial institutions, SECU Maryland has been measuring how we are handling this influx of consumer inquiries through our member experience surveys. We have heard that some other credit unions turned off their survey programs when the coronavirus crisis arrived because they felt continuing survey outreach would seem insensitive. And so, we needed to decide if we could conduct surveys in a way that is thoughtful and empathetic.

We concluded that now more than ever, we need to have our finger on the pulse of how well we are meeting our members’ needs. We also recognized some adjustments are warranted as well.

How to Tastefully Keep Asking People How They Are Doing During a Pandemic

Here’s what we’ve learned by keeping our surveys turned on during COVID-19:

1. It’s not business as usual — even when it is.

During this challenging time, acknowledging up front that things have changed was critical. In this way our members would know an automatic survey wasn’t being sent out without any thought, and that their responses would actually be seen by our Member Experience team.

“During this challenging time, acknowledging up front that things have changed was critical.”

To accomplish this, we changed our survey introduction to acknowledge this:

“There is nothing more important than the health and financial well-being of our members. We understand these are difficult times and feel now more than ever it’s especially important to keep open lines of communication with our members. Every response is personally read by our Member Experience team as we continue to provide you with an easy and comfortable way to share your thoughts and feedback. We are all in this together and appreciate you letting us know how we can serve you best.”

One thing that hasn’t changed: our response time. Anyone who rates their experience with a 6 or lower is called within 48 hours. It’s important that our members continue to have consistent follow-up and feel their feedback is not only heard, but valued

2. Be prepared for a dip in feedback — at least at first.

In March, more than 820 SECU members provided feedback around their overall satisfaction when conducting transactions across various business lines. These included transactions conducted in our branches, via online and mobile banking, through the member call center, and via our lending channels.

We anticipated a dip in our scores, as the situation was rapidly changing, and we were right. SECU experienced a 3% decrease in satisfaction levels the last two weeks of March. Those results quickly rebounded by mid-April by 5.7%, with over 435 members chiming in with a response. Overall, member satisfaction is at the highest levels year to date, and in fact, they are presently surpassing all of 2019.

3. Our members appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback.

People just want to be heard, and everyone goes through the change curve differently. Most recently, we have seen an uptick in social media commentary, so we have increased our capacity to respond through that channel. The key is figuring out how to meet our members where they are.

Overall, our members are more tolerant of wait times and understand that we are fielding a large volume of inquiries right now. Being able to share some of this feedback with our internal team has helped keep our employees’ spirits high, even as we encounter day-to-day changes and uncertainty.

Here is an example of the kind of comments we have received from members:

“I just read the note from SECU’s CEO about how the credit union is handling the COVID-19 issue. I’m VERY impressed by what I read! Offering loans to folks who are in financial need right now and help with childcare costs. This is what members need right now! Also, I have a family member who works for an out-of-state credit union, and she had to beg her manager to close the lobby! So, thank you for taking employee health seriously! The way SECU is handling this crisis is impressive! Looking forward to telling friends, family members and colleagues about your swift response! Proud to be a SECU member! — Nina”

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4. Let them know what else you’re doing to support them.

At the end of our survey, we felt that it was important to direct our members to our COVID-19 Community Response page. SECU rolled out more than $400,000 in relief efforts in the last month, including $200,000 in relief grants for members.

In reading grant relief applications from members, many have shared a sense of pride and satisfaction in belonging to a credit union that is putting their needs first and also supporting the community at large. We are fortunate that we are in a position to give back.

5. Remember to take care of your employees.

They are, after all, on the front lines of your member experience and have the most impact on it. Our employees remain top of mind as we manage the COVID-19 pandemic. To thank our employees and help ease any unexpected financial burden, we recognized all staffers with a special bonus. We assured them, while continuing to reiterate that should anyone be exposed to the virus or exhibit symptoms, they should remain at home to focus on their health and that they will be paid for their time. This also extends to those who may be at a higher risk as well.

We want our employees to know we have their back, so that when they are speaking to our members everyone feels supported.

At the end of the day, we appreciate our members in good times and in bad. All that we do is for them, and I can’t imagine guiding our organization without putting the members first.

Experience surveys are a crucial tool to being able to do that effectively. While no one knows what the future holds at this point, we will continue to keep this line of communication open with our members.

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