Credit Union Slashes Response Time on Customer Inquiries

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Credit union Patelco, San Francisco, has cut its average response time to customer e-mail inquiries from two days to seven hours using an e-mail management solution.

In December, Patelco chose the eGain Mail solution to help facilitate e-mail flow through its Internet branch, which handles all online customer services and inquiries for the credit union. Patelco customers can open new accounts, check balances, apply for credit cards, issue stop payments, reorder checks and pay bills through the credit union's Web site.

Since installing eGain Mail, Patelco's monthly e-mail traffic has increased from 2,000 to 7,000. But, despite maintaining its staff of six representatives at its Internet office at the same level, Patelco now responds to e-mails just under seven times faster than it did before it implemented the new technology.

The e-mail solution, designed by eGain, Sunnyvale, CA, automated many of the functions that the branch representatives previously had to do manually, such as typing responses to standard questions from customers.

"The main thing was, we were using Microsoft Outlook to do e-mail," said David Cole, Patelco's iBranch manager. "It made it very cumbersome to do e-mail in a timely fashion."

With eGain, Patelco could set up standard responses to many inquiries. Representatives review incoming e-mails, choose a standard response and send it.

The system is equipped with artificial intelligence that scans incoming e-mails for keywords and ships a response automatically without review by a representative. However, Patelco chose not to use this feature to ensure that the system doesn't pick up on the wrong keyword and send the wrong response by mistake, Cole said.

Each time an e-mail inquiry arrives, eGain automatically ships the customer a response saying the e-mail had been received. The feature lets customers know how soon they can expect an answer, and it cuts down on follow-up e-mails from people wondering when they'll get a response, Cole said.

"We can set up proper expectations of what level of service we can provide them," Cole said.

The system also absolved Cole of having to decide how many e-mails each representative handles per day. EGain Mail looks for keywords in e-mail inquiries and assigns them to the representative that specializes in that area.

Besides saving Cole time, automatic distribution of the e-mails prevents representatives from feeling they have been given an unfair workload. The system is impartial, which helps staff morale, Cole said.

"That's one of the best things," Cole said. "I don't have to manage e-mails now. It manages it for me based on the rules I give it."

Patelco had a choice of whether to store the eGain Mail solution on its own servers or have eGain host the system. The credit union decided to keep the entire system on its own computers for security reasons, although it cost more to use its own equipment.

Keeping the system and all customer data in the office gives added assurance to customers that their personal data is safe, Cole said. Credit union members never have to worry about their personal information being seen by anyone but themselves and Patelco.

"It's just a matter of appearance," Cole said. "Secondly, it is secure. We don't have to worry about it."

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