Leaders Credit Union ($270.8M, Jackson, TN) serves nearly 38,000 members through six branches in and around its hometown of Jackson, TN, approximately 70 miles east of Memphis. That’s one branch fewer than the average number of locations for credit unions with assets between $250 million and $500 million.
But the Southeast credit union isn't worried about its brick-and-mortar footprint because its busiest branch in terms of production is its call center.
“The call center sales team produces more loan per month than any one of our branches,” says Seth Rudd, the credit union’s chief financial officer.
Introducing Sales To The Call Center
Leaders’ field of membership is made up of 350 select employee groups within its geographic footprint, primarily those in education and healthcare, as well as anyone who lives, works, worships, or goes to school in Madison County, where Leaders is headquartered.
CU QUICK FACTS
leaders credit union
Data as of 12.31.15
HQ: Jackson, TN
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 16.45%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 15.68%
On any given day, these members contact the credit union’s 13-person inbound call center with issues ranging from technical questions about online banking to account balance inquiries.
Among those 13 call center staff members is a seven-person sales team that takes applications, processes loan requests, and closes loans. Two employees joined this team in January 2013. Leaders has tasked these employees with making outbound calls, principally to indirect members.
“They’re in the same building but two separate rooms,” Rudd says. “We have one room with member service call agents and another with our sales team.”
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Calling And Firm Offers
Leaders embedded the outbound calling function into its call center for two reasons. First, it identified an opportunity in cross-selling members who’ve joined the credit union through indirect channels.
“We’ve found cross-selling members is a better practice than cold calling because we have already established a relationship with the member.” Rudd said “We have their information and we know what opportunities might be available based on the credit report from underwriting.”
The second reason concerns the credit union's view on the future of banking.
We're increasingly going to have to learn how to sell over the phone or find other ways to create loan production and deposit production.
“Our team does not believe members are going to come into branches forever,” Rudd says. “We’re increasingly going to have to learn how to sell over the phone or find other ways to create loan production and deposit production.”
Although the credit union initially identified an opportunity in indirect members, the outbound calling team reaches out to both indirect as well as direct new members. When these members join the credit union — whether through a branch, website, or car dealership — Leaders adds their names and relevant information to a list, and the outbound calling team reaches out according to the following predetermined schedule:
First 30 Days: The initial warm welcome phone call, telling the member more information about the credit union.
First 60 Days: The second phone call. In this call, the credit union provides members with firm offers, including pre-approved credit cards and 1% off auto loan pricing.
First 360 Days: The third phone call. The credit union makes additional firm offers to members, including an overdraft line of credit, 0.5% off auto loan pricing (with the adoption of checking, e-statements, or a debit card), $1,000 toward a new mortgage or refinance, and a 0.35% CD rate bump.
Leaders uses members’ credit scores to make firm offers that fall into three tier qualities. Those members who have a credit score of 750 or higher fall into Tier 1, credit scores of 680-749 are Tier 2, and credit scores of 640-679 are Tier 3.
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The credit union’s outbound calling efforts mainly focus on this list of indirect and new members; however, it has on occasion worked with its analytics department to identify good candidates for specific products. For example, the sales team has called members the analytics team has identified as likely receptive to e-statements or who could benefit from a Leaders credit card or checking account.
Performance, Goals, And Success
According to Rudd, the two employees who handle outbound calls talk to, on average, 150 members per month. That number represents 100% of all new indirect members plus new direct members and, occasionally, established members.
Typically, Leaders makes contact with 65% of the members it reaches out to.
“35% of people will not answer a call from a phone number they don’t recognize,” the CFO says.
From the remaining pool, the credit union has an approximate 20% success rate of selling a new product or service of any kind.
“Although we may not originate a new loan or refinance a vehicle, the call could result in setting up a direct deposit, signing up for e-statements or another service that could strengthen the relationship.” Rudd believes the credit union has found success in outbound calling thanks to its employees and its training.
When building this budding team, the credit union identified employees with strong communication skills and reassigned two individuals from other areas of the institution.
“Our CEO, Todd Swims, and Operations Manager, Joanne Taylor, looked for people who referred business frequently,” Rudd says. “Not just one time, but someone who actively looked for opportunities refer business to loan officers, investments, mortgage, or other parts of the business.”
In terms of training, it’s a continual process. Brett Beckham — who manages the overall call center and spends a sizable chunk of time with the sales people, outbound calling employees specifically — listens to outbound phone calls and follows up with questions and advice to help the employees shape their presentation skills.
Beckham’s questions hone in on sentence structure, word choice, and voice inflection, Rudd says, and his counsel helps to improve the overall quality of phone conversations.
That’s critical, says Rudd: “Our team has found that you can have all the great products in the world, but if you are not pitching it correctly, if you do not have someone who is asking for the business, presenting it in a sales manner, it doesn’t matter if you have the best rates,” Rudd says. “It’s all about the presentation.”