Credit union call centers have grown up from an administrative focused back office department to a strategic operation that is closely integrated into the overall retail plan of the organization. In many credit unions the call center is the single most active member service and loan channel. In a survey of 12,062 members from the credit unions participating in Callahan’s Survey Consortium, the call center was the first option members selected in order to get questions answered about their account. At busy call centers working with a large concentration of members, satisfaction of the credit union overall is dependent on call center performance. Using the right metrics to evaluate performance is key.
Call centers are notorious for supplying huge amounts of data. Real time, daily, weekly and monthly data at the individual and agent group level are available from even the most basic phone system packages. Selecting the right information that has the most impact at managing performance is vital. A high performing call center will typically look at performance metrics in three areas: service performance, call quality and sales productivity.
Service performance is one of the most important categories of success at call centers. If a member is placed on hold for several minutes each time they reach the credit union’s call center, sales and call quality will also lag as call center agents struggle to calm frustrated members. Data that can be most valuable in analyzing credit union call center performance is:
Service level - At a typical financial service organization, the standard service level is 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds or less. Some organizations will adjust this based on the call type. The goal for loan calls, due to their value to an organization, may be 90% of calls answered in 10 seconds or less, while Internet banking password resets could have a standard of 70% of calls answered in 40 seconds or less. The service level standard will impact the staffing level requirements and the call routing program that the credit union selects.
Abandon Rate – A common monthly abandon rate goal for financial institutions is 5%. Credit union executives will sometimes look at an abandon rate goal and stress that no call should ever abandon. The randomness of calls into a call center makes this goal achievable only through overstaffing or outsourcing call center overflows. Managing to an acceptable level of abandons for the credit union is most important. A 10% call abandon rate at 4pm each weekday and a 1% abandon rate at 7pm each weekday may both be indicators of staffing level problems.
Other data points that are important measures of service success in a call center are average handle time, average hold time, average make busy time and number of transfers. All of these metrics link with each other. For example, abandon rate and service level move in opposite directions. Together these data points are important factors in managing the overall credit union experience for members.
While service performance is an important indicator of success, a viable call quality program can have the most impact in shaping employee behavior. Quantifying quality in a call can be a challenge. Judging quality is more of an art than a science. Successful call centers develop call quality programs that are specific around a few key areas: Accuracy of the information provided to the member, using the member name, greeting the member, recognizing opportunities for cross sell and appropriately closing the call with the member. Some other best practices in call quality are:
- Scoring – This should be done with several calls from an individual agent over a month, rather than measuring a few calls on the same day for an individual agent.
- Recording Calls – Behavior change by an employee is most effective when the employee can evaluate themselves. Employees listening to themselves on a call with a member are more likely to work jointly with a supervisor to improve performance.
- Coaching Regularly – Employees need to have regular feedback. A call quality program combined with a viable coaching program is much more likely to be successful.
Sales programs at a call center need to be coordinated with the retail branches due to the fact that most members are multi-channel users. The sales opportunities in call centers can be tremendous. Selecting the right sales production points to measure is the key. What are the four to five most important relationship products at your credit union? Sales and service training techniques over the phone should be focused on these core products rather targeting a blanket ‘cross sell’ edict onto call center employees. Also, sales training tailored to the call center environment specifically can have a huge impact. Focus on the types of high impact questions call center agents should ask to create a dialogue with members. Turning a problem into a sale is a talent that call center agents should excel in.
Ray Springsteen was Senior Vice President – Member Services for Service Credit Union, a $1.1 billion credit union based in Portsmouth, NH. In this role, he managed the credit union’s 13 New England branch offices, the call center, training and sales. He worked at Service Credit Union from September 2001 through September 2007.