The Competitive Challenge Facing Credit Unions
Credit unions find themselves in an increasingly competitive and challenging
marketplace. Industry deregulation, increased competition from new entrants
into the marketplace, renewed pressure from commercial banks, challenging economic
conditions, and other factors have complicated member acquisition and retention
beyond anything credit unions could have envisioned even a few years ago. The
ability to deliver a highly satisfying member experience is key to acquiring
and retaining member relationships in this new era of financial services competition.
Differentiating by Becoming More "Member-Centric"
One of the most effective ways of maintaining and growing a strong business
is to become more "member-centric" through superior member service
or a superior member experience. In many ways, the level of service provided
to its members defines a credit union. Ensuring that every member contact is
treated as an opportunity for superior service will, over time, result in high
levels of member retention, increased investment by members, and the acquisition
of new members through ever-increasing word-of-mouth referrals.
How can a credit union optimize member contacts? First, it is important to
continually gather information on how efficiently and how well contacts are
handled. Since the majority of member communications are managed and controlled
through the credit union's member service center, it is highly beneficial to
provide a system that tracks key metrics such as hold times, call abandonment
rates, service rep talk times, e-mail response times, and so on.
This data can then be used to determine adjustments to any desired level of
service. Having a solution that helps manage, control, and optimize the center's
responsiveness will have a great impact on the credit union's quest for superior
service and ever-growing membership roles.
What is often overlooked is that a member interaction begins when the member
first decides to contact the service center. Credit unions can improve the quality
and efficiency of the member contact experience while lowering costs and creating
a very real service differentiator by:
- Offering a choice of contact method, including calls, e-mail, fax, and web-enabled
- Providing self-service options for members
- Using intelligent routing to get the contact to exactly the right service
representative the first time
- Prioritizing contacts based on the member's history
Case Study: Arkansas Federal Credit Union
Arkansas Federal Credit Union (AFCU) wanted to increase its "member-centricity."
Management's primary concern was the high percentage of abandoned calls. They
implemented a full multi-channel system with software-based Automatic Call Distribution
and Interactive Voice Response controls for call center communication. AFCU
initially lowered its abandoned call rate from a high of 15 percent to less
than 9 percent. Continuing efforts have driven the abandoned call below 5 percent
every month for the past two and a half years.
The system's communication management, voicemail self-service and automatic
callback options immediately reduced abandoned calls. The system retains the
call records of members choosing to abandon their call. An outbound-call interaction
is managed in the queue as if the caller had not abandoned the call. The system
automatically calls the member back and connects the member with an agent when
the interaction is taken.
AFCU Executive Vice President Craig Savell says that, as a general rule, no
member is allowed to remain in queue for longer than 60 seconds without some
type of alternative resolution being offered. "The communication management
capabilities of the system help us routinely meet that goal," he notes.
The system handles all types of interactions (voice, e-mail, voicemail, fax,
web chat) using a universal queue. This enables the contact center to prioritize
member interactions according to their business value, regardless of which method
a member uses to contact AFCU. Every interaction can be queued and prioritized
based on rules set by AFCU.
The system is also fully compatible with AFCU's current data and voice infrastructures
and supports their future plans. "The deployment went very smoothly and
was possibly the best I've seen in the way it easily integrated with our existing
voice and data systems," said Savell.
AFCU, utilizing solutions from Apropos Technology, rose to the challenge of
providing superior member service through the use of technology that helped
it meet its member service goals, and as a consequence, drive its membership
Apropos Technology, Inc. develops and markets one of the industry's leading
business communications platforms, providing an open, system independent application
suite for real time, multi-channel interaction management. Additional information
about Apropos and its products for Credit Unions can be found at Apropos.com.