Credit Union Combines Centers, Uses Targeted Marketing

Provident Central Credit Union, Redwood Shores, CA, has combined two call centers, cross-trained agents to provide back-up support for each other, and installed new technology to improve marketing efficiency.

By integrating its legacy database of account histories with a marketing database that tracks what products have been offered to its 84,000 customers, the bank hopes agents will be able to selectively cross-sell products at opportune times, while at the same time performing customer service functions.

Provident united what had been two separate call centers, one of which served the loan department of the credit union, while the other provided member services, which involved answering questions about accounts and other bank products. The two centers were located in different areas of the same headquarters building, which is near San Francisco, but have been combined into a single space in the facility.

Both centers predominantly handled inbound calls. The 23-agent center receives about 2,000 calls per day on its two busiest days, Mondays and Fridays, and about 1,000 calls on other days.

Helen Byrnes, executive vice president at Provident, said the center cross-trained its agents to handle all types of calls the center receives.

“We’ve been able to distribute the work load with some cross-training across the whole department, even though I still have some specialists,” she said.

If customers call about a real estate loan, for example, they are first routed to a real estate loan specialist, but if no real estate specialists are available, customers are then routed to a consumer-loan specialist.

Cross-training has thus made the agents more productive, she said, because they all can serve both as specialists in certain areas and as backups.

Using marketing database technology from Onyx Software Corp. and the consulting services of Aquarius Technology Corp., both of Bellevue, WA, the bank connected the legacy databases that the company previously had used for loan qualifications and transactional histories. It then integrated them with the Onyx marketing software, which analyzes the account histories of the members and spots opportune times for offering certain products. It also uses customers’ account information to determine what loan products they are eligible for and presents that information to the agents. Thus agents can answer immediately whether or not a customer qualifies for a certain loan product, which they previously had been unable to do.

A screen detailing the customers’ account history appears on the agents’ monitors when they answer calls, along with a scripted prompt to pitch a certain product. The system identifies customers through a code they enter on the keypad when they call the center’s toll-free number.

The bank also trained agents to ask customers what prompted them to call. Answers are recorded in the Onyx software to track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.

Agents primarily use the system to cross-sell products to customers when they call in, but Byrnes said agents also have increased the amount of outbound telemarketing, which adds to their productivity.

The new technologies have not reduced agent talk times, however. Instead, they have added to the average amount of time each agent spends with a call because agents no longer have to hand off callers to other agents or to other departments.

“Our average talk time has actually gone up by about one minute, but that’s not really bad,” said Byrnes. She said the average call time for a customer service call was about 2.5 minutes before the call-center revamp, but now the average time is about 3.5 minutes.

The company also is using interactive voice response and an online banking site to absorb many of the customer service calls. In fact, agents direct callers to the IVR.

“Many times a member will call into the call center and ask for something that they could have gotten through one of the other means, and we measure how many calls like that we receive,” said Byrnes. “We go back and telemarket to that member, and say, ‘We’re sorry you had to wait two minutes to talk to an agent. Do you realize that you could have gone through the audio response unit? Would you like me to take you through it the first time?’

“Once the member becomes comfortable doing it the first time, they realize they can call at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night and not have to wait until Monday morning,” she said.

The center also has begun handling

e-mail messages from the bank’s Web site, through which customers can either get a response by e-mail or request a callback at a specified time. The center usually uses one dedicated agent to handle responses to e-mail, voice mail and fax queries.

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