Agent Training Spurs Loans for Credit Union

Financial services organizations need to make the most of several touch points, from bricks and mortar branches to online services to call centers, if they are to strengthen customer relationships. In its quest to build a call center that would provide a more personalized experience, Government Employees Credit Union has seen its loan volume rise by more than two-thirds since 2002.

Management for GECU, which has 248,000 members and $1 billion in assets, began by stepping back to get a pulse on how its agents functioned and how they interacted with customers.

The credit union and its staff certainly had a solid foundation. Back in 2000 as part of an initiative to bolster its call center operations, GECU, El Paso, TX, integrated its two call centers, Loans by Phone and Member Services. As a result, agents were versed in basic credit union information as well as information about lending and related products. They had the knowledge to promote GECU's products and services.

But they weren't sharing that knowledge with the customer. That's what GECU discovered about four years ago when it began using Envision's Click2Coach solution to monitor agent calls. Click2Coach's modules, Envision Quality Monitoring and Envision eLearning, provide monitoring and training tools to gauge the effectiveness of agents and follow up with coaching aimed at improving overall agent performance. Before using the service from Envision, Seattle, calls were individually tape-recorded, but that proved too time consuming for supervisors and left no time for subsequent training.

Prior to implementing the Envision solution, the contact center agents had access to customer profile information, such as the type of accounts each customer had with the organization. But the Envision monitoring revealed that some agents weren't asking callers for their name and account number — data needed to access a profile.

“In some cases, they weren't asking for [the name and account number], so the [agents] didn't know who they were talking to,” said Jenny Turner, SMARTCall manager for GECU. “They were just answering the questions. A member would call and ask 'what are your business hours?'” And agents would just provide that information. In such instances, “we were telling the agents to get their account number and find out what kind of relationship they have. Maybe they don't have to come into the branch. Maybe you can help them on the phone.”

There was no consistency in how customers were treated. Agents did not use their skills to build relationships with callers. Opportunities was being missed to cross-sell other credit union offerings.

“We were finding they weren't offering the rest of our products and services,” Ms. Turner said. “They would just do exactly what the caller asked and nothing more.”

GECU began training agents to ask customers the most relevant questions and engage in conversations that could lead to future interactions. Ms. Turner said the agents now tell customers about remote services, such as Internet-based features, and they have been trained to recognize a cross-sell opportunity.

“We're asking them to listen more because every caller is different,” she said. “If they notice the caller has just one relationship with us, such as just a savings account, then we ask them to offer a checking account. Now instead of just answering the phone call, we're building relationships with each and every phone call.”

Ms. Turner noted that the 30 call center agents lack information on their computer screens from GECU to help them select the best product for a cross-sell opportunity, but she hopes to have such a feature soon.

Still, the results of the initiative have been positive.

“We have increased the volume of new products being offered,” Ms. Turner said. “We have seen our loan numbers grow over the last three years.” In 2002, the credit union tallied $45 million in loans. In 2003, when Envision was in place, the loan amount increased to $67 million. It rose again for 2004 to $79 million before holding at $78 million last year.

Customer satisfaction also has increased. Ms. Turner said that 94 percent of members who responded to a credit union survey indicated they were greatly satisfied with the service received from a GECU call center representative.

“The next step is to continue to promote quality phone calls, and now it's a matter of retention,” Ms. Turner said. “How do we retain every membership we have without losing them to another financial institution? That's what we're working on, and it goes back to building the relationships we already have and enhancing them.”

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