Building sales and service skills at your branches is one way to succeed in 2008. Credit unions should review branch and teller level data to find areas in need of improvement. Even incremental increases in performance and productivity can make a long-term difference to your credit union’s outlook. Three credit unions focused on branch performance have demonstrated the effects of their productivity on the bottom line.
- Narrowed Focus Leads to Increased Productivity
Smart Financial Credit Union ($328M in Houston, TX) has a specific plan to do just that. In 2007, the credit union offered a wide range of incentives to front line staff totaling 1.7% of their total operating expense budget. For 2008, though, they have narrowed their sales focus to key areas with the goal of increased member service and retention. The credit union provides their Member Service Representatives with the tools needed to succeed. Credit union executives and branch managers involve the representatives with setting goals and tracking results. Supervisors at all levels provide coaching on a weekly and monthly basis. Michael Warrell, VP of Member Satisfaction said that using positive communication has made a difference and helped create a retail environment that lead to success. In the first quarter, new credit cards jumped 58% over last year and new checking accounts were up 22%.
Compare those numbers to a large bank. In an American Banker article on Friday, April 4, JP Morgan Chase’s CFO, Michael Cavanagh discussed their expansion and branch performance since the purchase of Bank One Corp. in 2004. The number of credit cards issued per branch rose 23.4% from 2005. The number of checking accounts increased 19% during the same time. Sales production, though, is only part of the larger picture of branch performance. Proper utilization of staff, member service, and overall profitability all factor into the credit union’s retail channel.
Sales Shines a Light on Exceptional Service
Seven Seventeen Credit Union ($688M in Warren, OH) uses service performance to drive sales production. Kathy Cumberworth, the VP of Business Development at Seven Seventeen CU, believes that sales can only happen with exceptional service. The credit union has an active management program around service. The credit union mystery shops almost every front line employee monthly. The credit union also has a manager observe front line employee interactions with members. Short coaching sessions are completed after each observation. Plus, the credit union develops individual action plans for each employee designed to focus on a skill that needs to improve. Skills include communicating personal benefits, active listening or handling resistance. Using great service as a leading performance measure helps ensure that Seven Seventeen Credit Union front line employees focus on the member. This focus on service to the member drives sales results. In a challenging market in Ohio, the credit union had a deposit growth of 5.5% and real estate loan growth of 6.6%
Measuring Teller Utilization
Measuring performance based on employee utilization is a common measure in credit union call centers. The measure is gaining popularity in branching as well. A common measure among credit unions is number of transactions per teller per hour. A transaction is measured by any monetary transaction. The metric typically varies by branch depending on the size of the branch and the member base.
At Arizona Federal Credit Union ($1.8B in Phoenix, AZ) the goal at most of the credit union’s 26 branches for teller transactions per hour is 28. New branches have a goal of 15 to 20 teller transactions per hour. Tellers at the drive through can have higher transaction numbers. The credit union sees the benefits of measuring teller transactions per hour as creating more efficient branch offices, increasing the visibility on teller work and saving the credit union money by staffing at the best times.
The credit union has found that they are able to staff much more effectively. They have a much stronger understanding of when members come to the branch offices. The credit union is able to save thousands in staffing costs by removing un-needed full time positions when staff turns over. A focus on speed at the teller line could impact member errors and member service. The credit union measures both. Service is measured through mystery shopping. Errors are measured internally. Each branch has an education consultant. The credit union coaches managers on the Top 12 Member Impact Errors.
Each of these credit unions extends the likelihood of success of their goals with coaching and education. Developing sales and service skills and maximizing utilization can lead to increased branch profitability.