Case Study: How Did San Francisco Fire Reinvigorate its Membership?

By developing an effective strategy, in less than two years this credit union boosted its member loyalty score by over 10 percent!


When San Francisco Fire Credit Union ($406 million in San Francisco, CA) converted to a community charter in 1999 and focused its efforts on promoting this new image, it inadvertently alienated its original, loyal members – those the credit union is named for, the San Francisco firefighters. In 2004, Diana Dykstra joined SF Fire as CEO, and with her arrival began numerous efforts to increase faith in the credit union among SF Fire’s members, especially its original core firefighters and their families.

Bolstering members’ faith in the credit union began with some internal changes, including adopting Connections Online, which provides a platform to keep all employees informed about their progress in achieving goals. For example, SF Fire emphasized that building member loyalty was their number one priority by keeping survey results directly in front of its staff. The survey SF Fire uses includes “the ultimate question” calculating SF Fire’s Net Promoter Score ® to quantitatively measure members’ loyalty.

Survey questions included:

  1. Would you recommend SF Fire to your friends and colleagues? (Rank likelihood on a scale of 0-10)
  2. To those that chose a score of 8 or less – what would the credit union have to do to improve the likelihood that you would refer it to a friend or colleague? (open ended)

SF Fire conducts their surveys over the phone three times per year. In less than two years, their Net Promoter Score ® increased from 51% to 64%!

How did SF Fire increase members’ loyalty? By listening.
By listening to their members, SF Fire turned members’ comments on the survey into action items. One conundrum they discovered was the question of convenience – a problem almost every credit union faces. SF Fire participates in shared branching and is part of an ATM network, but these two measures were not enough according to members’ responses.

To address this, SF Fire decided to rebate all ATM surcharges – worldwide. Wherever a member was, he or she could access his or her cash without thinking about the transaction’s cost. According to Dykstra, while this program may cost the credit union about $20,000 each month, the cost is less than it would be to open, staff, and operate a new branch in San Francisco. Also, opening a new branch would not solve the problem of convenience because members do not all live in one, small community. By eliminating the worry of how much it would cost to take money out of an ATM, the question of convenience was answered. After implementing this program, SF Fire not only saw an increase in their Net Promoter Score ®, they also experienced a surge in deposits!

* Net Promoter Score ® is calculated by subtracting the percent of respondents choosing 0-6 (detractors) from the percent of respondents choosing 9 and 10 (promoters) to generate the net score.

© 2006 Net Promoter is a registered trademark of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, and Fred Reichheld.




Nov. 6, 2006


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  • Brilliant as always. If the credit union world could clone Diana and her continual focus on members rather than completely on the bottom line, there would be far greater growth and member committment. Bravo to you Diana for once again stepping outside the usual!
  • Credit union value clearly comes through to their members and the results indicate that real value is something members talk about with others. Shows the benefits of not focusing solely on the bottom line.
  • I’ve always admired Diana for her groundbreaking, result-driven wisdom. Those are two very powerful quantitative and qualitative questions and what an efficient way to gauge metrics that matter. The Service Guarantee, another brilliant idea; this simple statement sends a powerful message about the level of commitment they’ve made to their members. This may also heighten the member’s awareness of any interaction with the credit union and in turn, allow the credit union to reinforce its products & services marketing. WIN-WIN!
    Melinda Ma - Southland CU