No More Call Me 'Maybe'

Call centers can gain more access to critical resources by fostering employee pride and encouraging bottom-up leadership.


Of all a credit union’s delivery channels, few are as critical or as complex as the contact center.

“Call center agents speak more to members in a day than the CEO does in a month,” says Jeff Rendel, former bank regulator and president of Rising Above Enterprises, speaking to attendees at the 2012 Credit Union Association of New Mexico’s (CUANM) Call Center Conference. “Some of your most important business leaders are the ones without business cards.”

Yet all too often, this vital contact hub gets overlooked for a fair share of institutional resources and rarely gets significant executive attention.

“Around 50% of the time, senior management is not directly involved with the call center,” says Frank Kovach, director of PSCU’s Advisors Plus Consulting. Unless a lack of top-down leadership can be counterbalanced at the departmental level, contact centers can be at a real risk for poor employee experiences and depleted member service levels.

So how can top-notch contact center professionals garner more love from the institutions they support? First, call centers can no longer afford to be shy about contributions made to the organization on an individual, managerial, and departmental level. Leaders should be able to boldly articulate specific, exciting, daring, and concise (1,000 words or less) business plans for where they are and where they would like to be in the near future, recommends author and public speaker Fred Schafer.

Agents themselves can also contribute to creating more transparent call center operations, as well shaping new performance standards they will actually take pride in reaching, rather than arbitrarily imposed goals that are later abandoned.

“We have a lot of things that aren’t metrics, but we try to turn them into metrics and then put them on the shoulders of our reps,” says Tim Montgomery, CEO of San Antonio-based Culture. Service. Growth. (CSG). For better or worse, the metrics and standards chosen in the call center actually begin to affect the culture of the entire organization.

For example, a rep penalty leveled for excessive handle times at PC maker Gateway’s call center caused customer service levels to plummet so drastically, it dragged down consumers’ perceptions of the entire company, Montgomery says.

By more proactively gathering and incorporating strategic insights from the frontlines to compliment executive expertise, institutions can make sure they are focused on the factors that truly define and enhance the member experience.


Oct. 18, 2012


  • A far better metric is analyzing the percentage of "one and done" calls. This is done by analyzing calls over a period of days or weeks, and determining which members had to call back. Repeat calls from the same member is an indicator that the member did not get the solution they were seeking with the first call, and had to call back for more information, or to re-report a problem.
    John Madsen