The quest for consumer data is on and it’s hotter than ever. Everywhere you turn, someone wants your opinion about something. Whether you’re asked to participate in a telephone survey, an online survey or (they still do those things!?) a paper survey, some company somewhere wants to know what you think about something.

Banks and credit unions are no different. It’s not that seeking data about consumers is a bad thing – far from it. Financial institutions need to know as much as possible about the people they serve in order to retain both wallet and market share. However, as consumers drown in a deluge of survey questions, the same banks and credit unions are also better served by asking better questions. The same old shtick simply won’t do anymore. How satisfied are you about ABC? What do you think about XYZ? These types of questions are passé and, frankly, unlikely to generate the kind of data you can actually utilize.

Having said that, what are examples of better survey questions for your consumers? Following are a few suggestions.

  • Ask deeper questions. Make consumers think. An example from our own question databank is “if XYZ credit union/bank was a car, what kind of a car would it be and why?” It may sound like a gimmicky question, but the responses generated are truly telling. Some consumers use this deeper thinking opportunity to completely unload on their financial institution, referring to it as “a junked-out 1975 Pinto” or “something that is old, ugly it breaks down just when I need it.” Other answers are kinder. Whether kind or not, these types of responses are refreshing, honest and a better indicator of what consumers actually think about your financial institution.
  • Ask direct questions. As noted above, people are hit-up for their opinions all day long and simply don’t have the time for you to beat around the bush. Get right down to the meat of your question. For example, instead of asking “what do you like about our checking accounts?” go more for the jugular with something like “what suggestions do you have for improving the checking accounts at ABC credit union/bank?” Consumers will appreciate the brevity of your question and may also reward this with direct and honest responses.
  • Ask quantifiable questions. Questions that you can boil down into actionable data are desirable. For example, you might ask a question such as “how satisfied are you with the loan options offered?” You can grade on a scale of 1 to 10 with one being totally unsatisfied and ten being totally satisfied. After tabulating the answers, you can do the math and actually come up with a number that reflects what people think about the question you posed. Quantifiable data not only plays well in reports and in the boardroom — it offers a springboard for you to make substantive improvements to your financial institution.

Take a little time now to develop survey questions that are deeper, direct and quantifiable. Your consumers may thank you for it in the form of answers your bank or credit you can actually use in the pursuit of improving your marketing mix.