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Staff Attitude Shows Up In The Quality Of Service

Credit Union Times - October 8, 2008

MADISON, Wis. - A recent Filene Research Institute report, "Employee Perceptions of Credit Unions: Implications for Member Profitability," finds that staffers' perceptions are key to credit union service.

Researched by anthropologists John B. Gatewood of Lehigh University and John W. Low of Culture Analysis Group, the study hypothesizes that credit union success is critically dependent upon the credit union's employees and, in turn, is likely to be strongly colored by employee perceptions of credit unions. Employee attitudes influence their behavior at work and their interactions with members, and play a significant role in employees' abilities to recruit new members through word of mouth.

After interviewing employees at credit unions of various sizes across the United States, Gatewood and Lowe reported the following six key research findings: Employees can't neatly compartmentalize how a credit union fits into society; employees agree on the "credit union idea" but have a very difficult time explaining that idea to external parties; employees can identify the parts of the credit union puzzle, but they don't see how it all fits together; "trusted" is the highest rated characteristic attributed to credit unions; employees younger than 30 and those with higher levels of educational are less committed to credit unions; and there is significant variance across institutions in employee commitment and in the consensus of what a credit union represents.

"Many firms, especially in the financial services industry, present hollow claims on differentiation," said Filene Chief Research Officer George Hofheimer. "But credit unions are truly different. This study indicates that differentiating factors map very well to what many people view as the ideal financial institution. In short, credit unions have a unique story to tell, and like most really good stories, it takes time to get the pitch right."