Every good business executive recognizes that satisfied customers are the key to success. Yet, many credit unions—like all businesses—struggle to quantify the value of member service against the fundamental need to achieve profitability.
One place where this tug of war is evident is with call centers.
In a perfect world (especially for the member), every inbound call would be answered immediately by someone with the knowledge to respond to the caller's needs.
In reality, financial pressures often force credit unions to live with hold (also called queue or wait-to-answer) times that are above the industry average, leading to excessive rates of call abandonment.
For most credit unions, the problem lies not with the call center metrics, but with how management looks at them.
If your members are waiting more than two minutes, on average, to reach a service representative (the industry average, according to the bank and credit union research firm Facilitas), it's time to change your outlook.
A new viewpoint
Most credit unions have much smaller call centers than the mega-centers of behemoth banks. As a result, they lack sophisticated measurement tools that can pinpoint where problems occur.
Instead, their phone systems may tell them call volume or call abandonment has spiked, leading them to think they have a staffing shortage. The added expense can harm the bottom line because it raises overhead without necessarily increasing business or member satisfaction.
To engage in more productive and efficient decision-making to reduce hold times, credit unions should:
Once you've done that, identify spikes of abandonment by long wait-time callers (those who wait more than 30 seconds). These are periods of true understaffing you should address.
If your service representatives aren't well-trained or don't follow a formal process (such as asking qualifying questions), the resulting inefficiency will cause big bottlenecks in call center operations.
Keep in mind that performance incentives can work wonders to increase call efficiency.
However, if those activities are occurring during periods of high-call volume, it will likely increase hold times. Encourage multi-tasking, but only when appropriate, and account for that added, non-call-related productivity in your metrics.
The production boost may enable you to justify more resources when you really need them.
After you have made these changes, you should see a noticeable reduction in hold times. Furthermore, any staffing increases you make should have a corresponding productivity increase.
The result will be more satisfied members and a better financial picture for your branch.
W. MICHAEL SCOTT is CEO of Financial Management Solutions Inc., Alpharetta, Ga. The company provides business intelligence and performance management systems that allow financial institutions to manage and staff efficiently to meet service and sales needs. Contact him at 877-887-3022.