Giving Reason to the Rhyme: Making Sense of Member Sentiment


Credit unions are renowned for their dedication to member service, but as technology continues to redefine the world, the definition of a positive member experience also evolves. What's more difficult, as remote channels continue to grow in popularity and sophistication, members are using the same words and phrases to mean very different things.

To one member, "good customer service" might mean a tidy lobby, smiling and helpful employees and a fresh cup of coffee on their way out. To another member, it means having the ability to do everything online that they could do in-branch in a simple and streamlined digital environment.

Suppose these two individuals were anonymously asked to rate your credit union's "customer service" on a scale of one to five—one rates high and the other rates low. What have you discovered, and more importantly, what are you going to do about it?

Mark Twain is often credited with the quote, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." This is a good quip that highlights the issue with the hypothetical problem above: It lacks context. It lacks sentiment.

What Is Sentiment?

Sentiment is a difficult metric to track; it is someone's opinion. More than a star rating or a simple good/bad binary, sentiment has nuance—it gives meaning. A good response does not always mean a return customer just as much as a bad response doesn't always mean a lost customer. Understanding the nuance behind a rating is extremely important, but taking the time to read through every response and properly analyze it is nearly impossible.

In any case, it is important to draw the distinction between customer sentiment and customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is a way to let you know you've fulfilled a specific need, and that can typically be gauged with a simple tick box or one-word answer. In that regard, satisfaction often boils down to a simple "yes" or "no." Sentiment, on the other hand, is what made a customer feel good or bad about an interaction.

When "Good" Is Actually "Bad"

It is entirely possible to garner a positive rating while still leaving a negative sentiment with a customer. Imagine an individual walks into a branch and wants to open a new account. A teller can process the member's needs to their satisfaction, but with no smile, no interpersonal interaction, the transaction can leave an overall bad taste in the new member's mouth. Was the original intent satisfied? Sure—the new member accomplished what they had set off to accomplish, after all. But there is clearly something lost in this binary measurement.

The meaningful description that comes with member sentiment becomes even more important as more and more services move online. Everyone has had a frustrating experience with a chatbot as they got stuck in a loop seemingly devoid of logic. But that has been changing. According to marketing, sales and customer service juggernaut HubSpot, sentiment analysis is evolving and improving customer satisfaction in online interactions. As machine learning advances, it grows ever more possible to analyze what humans are saying and respond with growing nuance and accuracy.

Be Better Prepared

Companies have long realized that satisfying the customer alone is not enough. This is because sentiment is ultimately what drives loyalty, and providing the minimum service acceptable is not what wins people over.

Monitoring and tracking sentiment is not only important for fostering positive member experiences in the present, but it also enables credit unions to be better prepared for the future. Developing a means of quickly capturing and interpreting the meaning behind customer responses in reviews, forums, social media or surveys enables strong brands to anticipate the next important facet of good service engagement.

How to Track Sentiment

There are several ways to measure and track sentiment, but the challenge lies in scalability. One method, of course, is to simply ask. Comment cards and email surveys are tried and true methods of gathering data. But they do not always paint the whole picture and can be cumbersome to sort through. Focusing on quantitative or numerical ratings work well in this regard, but neither are particularly effective at capturing qualitative sentiment at scale.

Monitoring social media and rating platforms like Yelp or Google reviews is another great way to collect sentiment. People are often much more willing to share how they truly feel online. Most social management tools also have options to track sentiment or have the option to add in third-party sentiment tracking services. Again, the main barrier is collecting, sorting and compartmentalizing people's feelings in a way that is effective, efficient and centralized.

Simplifying a Great Member Experience

CU Solutions Group recently announced an innovative new sentiment analysis tool as part of its MemberXP complete member experience management suite. MemberXP is a credit union–focused platform that allows members to provide immediate feedback on the service they receive. MemberXP leverages mystery shoppers and member surveys to gauge the overall member experience across multiple delivery channels and has the ability to track specific experiences such as applying for a loan, conducting a transaction — mobile, online or in-branch — or opening a new account.

The new sentiment analysis feature captures previously unquantifiable and missed data from the member experience and adds it to MemberXP's closed-loop measurement system, empowering credit unions to measure every touchpoint of the member experience and gain actionable insights. This new tool tracks trends and delivers augmented, dynamic and real-time reports ready for delivery to C-suite stakeholders.

CU Solutions Group is currently offering a free credit union self-assessment through its MemberXP platform. This self-assessment has 15 questions and takes about 10 minutes to complete. At the end, users receive custom recommendations to help identify opportunities to improve member experience and drive credit union growth.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about how sentiment analysis can help your credit union improve the member experience.