Selective Perception: Recognize it, Use it

by Lyle Heller, CU-VO

People are unique. They see the world differently.  This fact was certainly true on this tenth anniversary of 9-11.  Clearly there are two different world views.  Enemies see a victory, and America sees a time of remembrance.

Even within America, there are plenty of differences of perception and reactions based on those differences.  We heard from many directions of people who felt they were excluded from a ceremony or wanted a different icon to be used.

Your credit union has similar issues.  Present two members or potential members with identical items and you’ll get two different reactions about the concept and value to them.  One responds, another is not pleased.  Maximizing positive reactions and minimizing negative reactions are important to your credit union success.

Selective perception is what makes members process stimuli most relevant to their needs and evaluation.

In general, people tend to notice people that they know and people from an area we identify with.  Have you been on vacation, perhaps in another state, and you perhaps notice a person with a tee shirt with a logo of your high school or college?  Even though you may have never met them, conversations frequently start that discusses shared experiences.

In short, we watch for what matters most to us.  We see what we want to see – usually the stimulus relates to our lives or reinforces our beliefs.  We filter out the rest; we already have enough to deal with.  Then an event, such seeing a person with your high school or college logo that triggers a change.

After that trigger event, the group’s selective perception is noticing similarities.  People are realizing, “Hey! That’s just like me!” They’re paying attention.

Don’t miss the chance to capitalize on the situation for your credit union.  Words, images or concepts that directly relate to the trigger event of this group create the “aha event” that gets things started.  If the stimuli relates to their lives just after a trigger event, these people are more likely to become members, or to accept the service the credit union is offering.

Capture their attention while you have it.  Address their newfound perception and tap into the window of opportunity.  These opportunities do not remain forever as people’s issues of life change, such as aging, health, family and other aspects.

But how does your credit union know when this type of event has occurred?  Obviously if there is a sudden surge of new members or response to a credit union offer, we might conclude the event occurred.  But, like the 911 anniversary celebrations, some people may dislike and respond vocally.  Others may dislike and not say anything.  So it is important to know the reaction to concepts and services of your credit union.

Your credit union website provides a means to find out.  As mentioned in earlier articles, analytic tools permit your credit union to track such data in a very immediate and objective manner.  But, this means tracking should be regular and current.  Enjoying an upswing in memberships may not require analysis (Why mess with success?), but other reactions, especially negative, should be noticed.  If a website change is having a negative reaction from members, one would certainly want to know and correct before the matter gets out of hand.

I had an interesting experience where a business had regularly tracked activity on their website.  There had been a significant increase in activity to their website regarding a service they offered.  However, since they looked at the activity only periodically, they missed a large number of requests for information.  The “contact us” mailbox had filled up and potential client inquiries for service were never seen.

Using analytic tools also permits objective data for decision making.  Anecdotal data is interesting, but frequently is based on a few observations by people who may never be happy about anything.  Don’t abandon a campaign based on just a negative comment by a member.

Establish a baseline in order to determine if change has occurred in either direction.  If we didn’t know where we started, it is hard to measure change.

Selective perception, recognize it and use it for growing your credit union.

This series is authored by Lyle Heller of CU-VO.  Mr. Heller holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from University of Wisconsin – Whitewater and a Masters of Business Administration in Production and Operations from Marquette University.  Mr. Heller served as Executive Vice President of two CUNA organizations.  He has lectured at the university level in Quantitative Decision Analysis, Simulation, Systems Analysis, and Marketing for more than ten years.  Additionally, he was a top-ranked winner of the 2005 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan contest.  CU-VO is a strategic partner of CUNA Strategic Services to provide video overlays to credit unions.  Learn more at and follow CUVOTweet.

Lyle Heller

Lyle Heller

Lyle Heller is the Vice President at CU-VO. Mr. Heller holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from University of Wisconsin - Whitewater and a Masters of Business Administration ... Web: Details