PERCEPTION=9/10 reality

DATE | 07/29/19
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We care about how well we're serving you. So last December, we asked 10,000 of you about your true impressions regarding Member Benefits. Here are your answers. Q&A with Dave Kijek

Most of us care about what others think of us—we want to be liked, to be held in high regard, and to be spoken of in a positive manner. Member Benefits is no different. As the 2018 calendar year was about to end, Member Benefits surveyed its members to get an idea of how they felt about us and what their perceptions were of the organization based on their experiences.

This survey was different than the customer satisfaction surveys we send to those who call or stop in to transact business. For one, it was sent randomly to 10,000 members regardless of when we last engaged with them.

products and servicesThe survey covered things like first impressions of Member Benefits, the products and services that stand out, overall level of satisfaction, and how likely recipients would be to recommend Member Benefits to a colleague or family member.

Admittedly, we were a little anxious about what the study might reveal. Are we really doing as well as we think we are? Are we serving members in the best way possible? What are we missing?

What follows are some of the statistically significant results of the survey as well as a Q&A with Dave Kijek, President and CEO of WEA Member Benefits. We believe it’s good practice to let our members know how we’re doing and how we plan to use their feedback to better serve them.

first impressionsFirst impressions

When asked, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about WEA Member Benefits? Your responses indicated that what sets Member Benefits apart from other providers are the products offered, our customer service, and retirement planning. The customer service comments indicated that service, trust, quality, and value of the organization come to mind first.

“All inclusive. The most comprehensive offerings and benefits in the industry.”

“Quality service at a reasonable price…a unique and opportune benefit for Wisconsin public educators.”

“I am never concerned about calling and asking a question. I have always been given an answer to my question by a kind, gracious, and knowledgeable person.”

reputationBrand perception

A brand simply tells the story of what an organization is all about. The perception of a brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room.

For a brand to be effective, people need to believe it. Members were asked about Member Benefits’ reputation and their perceptions. They were also asked about the degree to which Member Benefits met or exceeded their expectations, as well as how our company lives up to its brand promise.

Respondents overwhelmingly agree that the reputation of Member Benefits is very good or excellent (85%).

“You have an outstanding reputation backed up by integrity and success through my many years in education. I wish everyone had access to such a responsible organization.”

expectationsbrand promise60% agree that Member Benefits exceeds or somewhat exceeds their expectations.

“My parents were both educators and spoke highly of Member Benefits because of the help they received in planning for retirement.”

Ninety-one percent feel that Member Benefits lives up to their brand promise often or always.

No matter how many times I call to ask a question or gain clarification on something, I ALWAYS feel valued and that I am a priority.”

customer satisfaction

Most members indicate they are very satisfied with Member Benefits (89%).

Member Benefits is committed to providing outstanding customer service. Our team makes members their priority and strives to provide a great experience.

Another method for measuring customer satisfaction is net promoter score (NPS), which uses a scale of 0–10 and assesses the likelihood members would recommend Member Benefits to others. It is worth pointing out that more than half of all respondents scored WEA Member Benefits a 10!

The average NPS in our industry is in the low 30’s, which is considered a very good score. In comparison, we scored 49.

net promoter scoreThe most important part of the NPS questioning is why someone gives the score they do. Overall, members said they selected their rating because of the good service and experiences they have had with Member Benefits (57%).

Responses that explain the rationale of likely detractors included:

  • Not having enough information about Member Benefits to offer a recommendation.
  • Lack of opportunity to recommend the organization.
  • Dissatisfaction with earnings, service, or pricing.

“I call WEA now and then…and the phone is always answered promptly and in a friendly, interested manner. This means a lot to me.”

“When I was a new teacher, other teachers recommended it to me.”

financial securityFinancial security

Every Member Financially Secure is Member Benefits’ vision, so it was important to find out how we were doing on that front. We asked several questions around financial security, such as what members’ biggest financial issues were for the next year and how financially secure they feel. Members indicated their significant financial concerns included:

  • Preparing for the future (34%).
  • Paying off bills and debt (21%).
  • Buying/selling a home (9%).
  • The economy, tax reform, and current political climate (8%).
  • Insurance (8%).
  • Major life event like marriage or career change (5%).
  • Purchasing a car (4%).
  • Tuition (3%).

When it comes to financial security, most members feel like they are almost there or extremely secure (68%). Only 8% felt they need some work or are not secure at all.

Looking forward

Member Benefits is constantly looking for ways to do things better. Getting advice from our members is perfect, because that is who we are serving, and there’s no better source for advice and feedback than from those we serve.

We plan to conduct this survey annually to help us measure progress and shape our plans for the future.

Q&A with Dave Kijek, President and CEO of WEA Member Benefits

Q: Why did Member Benefits decide to do a perception survey?
Dave: We wanted to get an idea of where members stand in their relationship with Member Benefits—how do they feel about us? For years, we have been surveying members after they transact business with us, such as after they call to make a change to an insurance policy or retirement account. But if they didn’t call us, we had no idea how they felt other than the fact that they still had an account with us. The perception survey gave us an opportunity to reach out to a broader demographic and to ask members questions that measure their perception of our organization.

Q. In the open ended questions, one common theme was the perception that Member Benefits doesn’t offer advice on investments. Can you address this?
Dave: We actually do provide advice on investments through our financial planning services, but that hasn’t always been the case. Historically, Member Benefits did not give advice on specific investments because of industry regulations and licensure requirements. What we offered (and still do) is financial education to empower members to make sound financial decisions. We were pioneers in this area, promoting financial literacy when no one else was doing it.

Today we have financial planners available to advise members through a whole host of services.

Q. There were also some comments regarding the recent 403(b) fee cap change. Can you explain the change?
Dave: The fee structure of our retirement accounts stayed the same for nine years, but the costs to operate the program have increased. Member Benefits is very conscious of the fees members pay for their retirement savings accounts, and we have taken many steps to decrease our costs. But it’s not realistic to think that fees will never change. We did an extensive analysis to find the most appropriate and fair way to distribute the increasing business costs, and we concluded that raising the fee cap was the fairest.

I think there is a misunderstanding that the fee cap is a fee. It’s not. The fee (0.35%), which remains the same, pays the program’s operating cost. The cap is the maximum cost a member may pay during a year.

Q. Another issue that surfaced was why insurance premiums are higher with a member organization. Shouldn’t they be less expensive?
Dave: Insurance premiums are unique to each individual situation, so it’s difficult to generalize about price. We may not always be the lowest price for everyone, but a lot of members say we’re the better deal. Our board members are active or retired educators and advocate for the membership. That has a substantial impact on how we set rates and how we treat members when they have a claim.

Q. Does Member Benefits have an identity problem? Some of the comments were about health insurance or union issues.
Dave: The history of organizations with the letters WEA in their name is complicated, and there is some confusion about who does what. WEA Inc., created all the WEA organizations to serve educators. We all come from the same place but we operate separately and do different things. WEA Member Benefits was set up to provide individual insurance and financial products and services. WEA Trust provides the group products like health and life insurance. Member awareness and understanding of Member Benefits has come a long way, but it takes time.

Q. The survey asked Members how financially secure they felt. Why did you ask this question, and how do you feel about the responses?
Dave: Every Member Financially Secure is our vision and ultimate goal of our organization, so it was important for us to know how our members are feeling and to establish a benchmark. Sixty-eight percent of our members feel they are heading in the right direction. It bodes well for what we do for members, but we can do better. Things measured are things improved, and now we have a benchmark that will help us measure our success.

Q. Members overwhelmingly want more face time with Member Benefits staff in schools around the state. Any plans for that?
Dave: Increasing opportunities for personal interaction with members is a priority for us. It would be wonderful to have representatives in every school district, but it’s cost prohibitive. Our financial planners meet with members throughout the state. We also continue to add Member Benefits Consultants, retired educators who work part-time serving specific school districts. They allow us to have greater reach and more personal contact with our members. In addition, we are exploring mobile technology and chat capabilities to offer even more options for members to connect with us.

Q. One thing that came through in the comments was the high level of trust members have in Member Benefits. What does that mean to you?

Dave: I love hearing that! The reason members trust us so much is because we deliver on our promises and were created to serve Wisconsin public school employees and their families. We were not created to serve just anybody. And as we have grown through the years, that has never changed. We are proud of that fact.

Q. Lots of companies struggle to maintain a high level of customer service. What’s your secret?
Dave: We hire exceptional people who believe in our mission—that’s most important. It’s also important to retain good employees. We are fortunate to have been voted one of the Best Places to Work in Madison on numerous occasions. We believe that if we treat our employees exceptionally well, they will serve our members exceptionally well.

Q. What’s the biggest take away from the survey results?
Dave: We would like to believe that people like us and trust us, but getting the reassurance that they do means a lot to me. The fact that members trust us with their financial security is an honor and one that we don’t take lightly.