State Employees’ Credit Union ($31.8B, Raleigh, NC) is focusing on a simple metric in its quest to provide optimal member service: answer all calls within three rings.
That’s approximately 416,000 inbound calls per month from its more than 2 million members plus members from Local Government Federal Credit Union ($1.6B, Raleigh, NC) and North Carolina Press Association Federal Credit Union ($7.2M, Raleigh, NC), for which SECU provides call center services.
The nation’s second-largest credit union intends to meet that goal by using a “convergence” staffing strategy that will bring together the contact center and the larger organization.
CU QUICK FACTS
STATE EMPLOYEES’ CREDIT UNION
Data as of 12.31.15
HQ: Raleigh, NC
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 7.94%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 9.25%
Currently, approximately 750 employees across several contact centers take calls on what SECU calls its 888# delivery channel. That number could increase to as many as 4,500 under the new strategy.
“Convergence is about leveraging existing credit union resources to provide efficient service by way of local credit union staff,” says Mike Walsh, senior vice president of member service support.
SECU employs approximately 5,600 people in total and has been supporting members through both contact centers and branches since it opened its first contact center in 1997.
“The call center had grown into a parallel delivery channel to our branch network,” says Jennifer Hamrick, executive vice president of organizational support. “Convergence brings those two channels back together by directing the membership to a local service point without regard to their selected channel of communication.”
She says that local contact combined with leveraging the entire member-facing branch staff to help take calls during times of high volume will improve SECU’s service level.
“Currently we only have the resources in the contact center,” Hamrick says. “Going forward we will now have every employee potentially available to field an incoming call.”
Very few calls are rolling outside of the district. This helps us achieve our goal of local service to every member.
Three Rings For The Home Team
According to SECU executives, the credit union has the staffing and infrastructure in place to launch the new strategy. That includes routing member calls and the 30,000 monthly online requests to the member’s home branch by using programming logic that considers the member’s activity pattern. The pilot phase began this month with call routing to a group of pre-selected branch locations, Hamrick says.
Staffing changes are also part of the convergence strategy. Walsh says the local branch network will absorb much of the existing staff in SECU’s traditional contact centers. The others, meanwhile, will remain in the credit union’s Member Services Support department. There they’ll provide additional coverage for nights and weekends and help out with branches facing capacity challenges.
Although the credit union’s goal is for all calls to be handled locally, that’s not always going to be possible. Therefore, SECU can route calls to branches in the same geographic area with fewer calls or more capacity.
SECU is already well on its way to answering all calls within three rings. It knows this because it tracks the metric via a real-time Web-based dashboard and daily statistics. Ahead of the convergence staffing changes, the credit union redesigned how phone calls ring in the branch in order to improve the chances of each incoming call being answered within three rings.
If a local branch cannot answer a call, it goes to all branches in the district at once. This gives callers the best opportunity to reach a local employee, Walsh says.
“We’re pleased with the statistics we’re seeing,” he says. “Branches are doing a good job of answering their calls, and very few calls are rolling outside of the district. This helps us achieve our goal of local service to every member.”
6 Reasons To Converge Staffs
Mike Walsh, senior vice president of member service support at SECU, and Jennifer Hamrick, executive vice president of organizational support, talk about the reasons behind and the benefits of making all staff members responsible for contact center calls.
Local staff with established member relationships provide the best service. This staff is more aware of the economic challenges each community faces and helps to strengthen the sense of ownership members feel about their local, hometown SECU presence.
Local staffers give members a consistent contact point for their credit union, which holds the local staff accountable for service.
Spreading out contact centers helps SECU fulfill its social responsibility to the citizens of North Carolina. The strategy brings jobs to parts of the state that have been impacted by job loss and high unemployment. Read more about that here.
More consumers are choosing electronic and telephone communication rather than visiting a physical branch. Placing local staff as the servicing point to these channels ensures members still have a brick-and-mortar location in their community that can serve their needs when they prefer face-to-face contact.
Local service is a competitive advantage.
Making use of existing facilities with unoccupied office space is a better investment than purchasing or constructing additional call centers to accommodate for the increasing volume in SECU’s 888# and online delivery channels.