Tech Time: Making the Most of User Surveys
In my experience, credit unions do a decent job of understanding system functionality and providing training to their employees when they purchase new software. However, they are less on top of things when it comes to ongoing vendor performance monitoring over the years. As a result, gaps in service and sub-optimal system use can occur. We recommend first identifying the trouble spots, then leveraging member surveys to find effective remedies.
The following five key factors are useful in identifying the underlying cause of these gaps:
1. Lack of ongoing training. While credit unions do well when it comes to providing system training at implementation, they frequently fall short when it comes to ongoing training. CUs often leave long-tenured employees in charge of training new employees—even though those veterans are usually unaware of system improvements made by the vendor over the years. Both the credit union and its vendor partner should have a systematic training program in place.
2. Employee attrition. On a similar note, new employees do not typically get the same level of training as their predecessors in the same roles.
3. Lack of process improvement during implementation. A system swap without an accompanying process improvement effort will likely lead to many of the same issues that caused the credit union to look at alternatives in the first place.
4. Lack of communication from the vendor about enhancements or upgrades. This is symptomatic of a weak vendor relationship. A strong strategic partnership includes a vendor that will meet with the credit union team to discuss enhancements or upgrades as they become available. This includes positioning new products and services based on the account rep’s thorough understanding of the credit union’s business and member needs.
5. System gaps. There could be numerous gaps in the current solution versus other solutions on the market, the pain of which is exacerbated by evolving member expectations.
One of the most effective ways to remedy these issues is through user surveys that measure system satisfaction. At a high level, surveys should uncover users’ satisfaction with system features, functionality, ease of use, reporting, integration and support. They also should give users the opportunity to provide feedback. When tabulating the results, some credit unions choose to weight the responses because, for example, the feedback from a daily user should carry more weight than someone who may only use the system once a week. A simple approach is to weight user responses by level of experience with the solution, e.g., casual, average and power users.
A word of caution: These survey results should not be used as the sole basis for deciding to undergo a request for proposal process and look at alternative vendor solutions. If major issues are identified, the credit union should conduct a full business needs assessment that will uncover functional gaps and process issues in greater detail.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind as you conduct user surveys:
Avoid survey fatigue. Two scenarios can cause survey fatigue: 1) surveying too often, and 2) sending out surveys that take too long to complete. The average teller handling more than 100 transactions a day will probably not provide well-thought-out responses to questions about the multiple systems she uses if the survey itself is a burden. For survey completion time, a good rule of thumb is 10 to 15 minutes.
Survey at the right time. When deciding when to distribute a survey, consider an appropriate lead time so your credit union can a) include the results in renewal discussions or b) if the service/system gaps are big enough to warrant a business needs assessment and RFP, complete those processes and convert to a new system before the term date.
Get help if you need It. Ultimately, user surveys should address the areas that are most important to the credit union and its members. However, with continual changes in the market in how services are delivered, you may not know the areas on which to focus. A third-party consultant who understands the systems credit unions use, the alternative options available on the market and market expectations can help credit unions develop the right questions to ask.
A second word of caution: Don’t survey for the sake of surveying. Create a plan of action to address material concerns identified. By doing so, the credit union will demonstrate to its employees that it values their feedback and will use the information to make improvements—whether that is improving training or processes, working with the current vendor to improve optimization or looking at the market for a replacement. This will improve the level of commitment from employees in completing future surveys.
“Future-ready” vendor management incorporates vendor performance management and vendor cost management into ongoing vendor risk management. Implementing user surveys is a critical step in adding vendor performance management to a credit union’s overall vendor management program.
Nick Lane is a consultant with Cornerstone Advisors, Scottsdale, Ariz., CUES’ provider of technology and risk management services.