Assume Nothing, Survey Everything

High-quality member service is a distinguishing feature for credit unions. In fact, for many credit unions, this founding principle is so deeply embedded in their culture that it's treated as a given. As good as that sounds, that assumption can be quite risky.


By Enterprise Car Sales


High-quality member service is a distinguishing feature for credit unions. In fact, for many credit unions, this founding principle is so deeply embedded in their culture that it's treated as a "given." As good as that sounds, that assumption can be quite risky.

Proactively analyzing member satisfaction to confirm high-quality service is a must in today's ultra-competitive finance world. Relying on an occasional letter or a call to determine how well employees are serving members is not enough. Rather, developing a quantitative survey system to test and gauge member satisfaction will not only provide useful data and measurable results, but can have a positive impact on your members and employees.

Developing and implementing a service quality survey is challenging. Recently a large national association in the automotive industry admitted that its customer satisfaction index survey was not performing up to par. Having stayed in a static state for decades, it was time to a change. Flaws in the survey included:

  • The length hindered all but extremely dissatisfied customers from taking the time to fill out the questionnaire.
  • Unhappy customers used the survey as an opportunity to punish the companies.
  • Many questions were outdated, poorly worded and confused participants.

Avoiding these types of flaws requires a thorough development process. The first step is to establish quality service standards for employees. Next, develop a concise but comprehensive list of questions that measure how well these standards are followed. Then determine the best method of surveying members. Some organizations use phone interviews or letters. Others hand out survey cards with each transaction.

Next, determine how to score the survey. Certain attributes of service might be more important and should be given a weighted score. Finally, determine how to respond to the results. Provide personalized responses to members who received poor service and reward employees who offer superior service. Keep records to compare results on a quarterly or annual basis.

One company that has realized the importance of gauging and maintaining high-quality service is Enterprise Car Sales, a division of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and a partner with hundreds of credit unions around the country. Enterprise was originally founded in 1957 based upon a strong set of core values - personal integrity, customer service, teamwork, and a commitment to the local community.

As the company grew nationally and eventually internationally, Enterprise executives feared that growth and the bottom line would take precedence over customer service. So Enterprise renewed its cornerstone commitment to customer service during the 1990s. Internally, Enterprise came to rely on a measurement tool called the Enterprise Service Quality index (ESQi), which is based on a customer service survey.

The index was carefully crafted to yield detailed and targeted results companywide. Senior operating managers were drawn into the development process ensuring that survey questions reflected their concerns and gave them an overall sense of ownership. Involving the whole organization yielded a multitude of survey questions. This lengthy list was whittled down to key questions and allows customers to follow up with specific concerns or complaints.

The survey results taught Enterprise a number of lessons about what it takes to provide high quality service across a nationwide network of locations. However, measuring service is only part of the process. Enterprise acted on the results, instituting policies that directly tied promotions to ESQi rating. All employees seeking promotion within Enterprise must achieve a certain level of ESQi results.

Enterprise Car Sales has achieved amazing customer service levels. From the mid 1990s, when Enterprise first measured customer satisfaction to today, the level of customers who commented on being "completely satisfied" has risen 15 percentage points. This marked improvement is a direct response to the importance placed on customer service within the company.

Enterprise's approach to measuring customer satisfaction indicates that internal policies dedicated to strengthening service and rewards for employees adhering to those policies are beneficial across the board. But perhaps the biggest lesson to learn is this: The primary goal of measuring customer satisfaction is to improve service. The primary mistake is "assuming" your customers are happy.


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Feb. 16, 2004


  • We are going to implement the same principals into our new member survey
  • Excellent points and a sound plan - assume nothing, survey everything. We often make the mistake of 'measuring' unimportant things. A Good Rule is to 'measure what needs to be changed'. A survey can identify strengths and weaknesses of the credit union and its competitors if properly crafted. John Chidester