E-mail in Your Call Center: Convenience or Disappointment to Members?

As credit unions strive to achieve excellence in member service, call centers become the hub of member communications and the latest focus for generating revenue.


As credit unions strive to achieve excellence in member service, call centers become the hub of member communications and the latest focus for generating revenue. Many financial institutions, including credit unions, are finding their email strategy – or lack thereof – is flawed. The processes they have in place simply do not support member satisfaction initiatives nor do they provide the ability to assist members with appropriate cross-sell responses.

A simple litmus test is to ask “Do our members have confidence that their e-mail inquiries will receive a timely, relevant response?” and “Do we seize the opportunity to respond to e-mail with an appropriate offer or information on additional services?” If you believe the recent research on some of the large financial institutions the answer is clearly “No.”

In a recent study of leading banks by research company Datamonitor, studies showed that well over 20 percent of e-mail goes completely unanswered. Of the responses that did occur, 75 percent referred the customer to another channel – most often the telephone – thereby increasing cost of the customer interaction. The magnitude of these statistics is realized if you relate them to a branch interaction: if you simply ignored 20 percent of the members coming in to the branch, and told 75 percent of the remainder to talk to someone else, you wouldn’t be in business long. So why is this “acceptable” in e-mail? Clearly these results indicate significant issues with the way e-mail is handled and the obvious result is member dissatisfaction.

Nearly every credit union provides an e-mail address for members to submit inquiries, but few handle e-mail communications with the same attentiveness given to voice communications.  Like many corporations, most credit unions accept e-mails into a central e-mail pond; fish them out and forward on for response. The e-mail typically comes into a centralized address, such as info@yourcu.org, and at some predetermined frequency the e-mail is opened and reviewed. The service representative then triages the e-mail looking for those requiring an immediate response, and passes other messages to different staff members. 

The end result from the member's perspective may be far from satisfactory. If the member considered the issue to be important and they do not receive a prompt response, chances are they won’t choose to use e-mail for future inquiries. If e-mail volume is high, this creates a greater chance of the response being slower, often creating a situation in which the member first submits an inquiry via e-mail and then because of the delay, calls in for a faster response. Now you must respond to two “issues” arriving across two channels. Both inquiries cost you member service resources and potentially generate separate responses. This often happens because of the inability to link requests between communication channels or systems. When voice, e-mail and online chat channels are integrated with core processing systems, member interactions can be efficiently and effectively managed.

Few people today use only one channel to communicate with their credit union, and that trend is increasing as the population becomes more comfortable with electronic communication. If a member e-mails you today asking for information on a loan, is it handled with the same speed as a phone call? Or do you have one person on staff to pick up the e-mail once or twice a day before routing to the right person?

This type of inquiry handling does not encourage members to use convenient, lower-cost methods of communication. Other industries now successfully promote e-mail and online communications as the fastest way to get in touch with them. Blending e-mail with voice calls in real-time for delivery to MSRs, and using business rules to dictate where e-mails are automatically routed based on ability to service the member are sure to increase the use of this significantly less expensive channel and ultimately increase member satisfaction.

For more information on managing your contact center communications to improve member satisfaction, register for one of our free online seminars, or view a 7-minute movie at www.apropos.com.



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June 27, 2005


  • I found this very interesting, emails have a high priority at this Credit Union and are answered in a timely and efficient manner
  • I was amazed by this article due to the fact that our CU handles emails close to the same priority as the incoming calls. Our emails have a high response time and mirrors web chat almost. Surprising.