A Better Way For Call Centers To Function

A Texas cooperative created a five-person department to carry out requests made through the call center, freeing agents to take more calls.
Drew Grossman

In 2008 when Navy Army Community Credit Union ($2.1B, Corpus Christi, TX) was reviewing all of its systems and processes, it saw some inefficiency in its contact center. Certain requests like sending new debit cards, copies of checks, forms, and faxes to a member required agents to leave the phone to complete the tasks. Fewer people manning the phones meant that callers were waiting longer to speak with an agent.

The call volume got to be so high that we realized there had to be a better way, says Laura Johnson, documentation administration manager at Navy Army.

As it turns out, there was a better way, and another credit union already had the solution: a fulfillment center that functions as an extension of the call center. Navy Army’s executive team saw one at Arizona Federal Credit Union ($1.3B, Phoenix, AZ) when they were visiting credit unions to discover new ideas and learn more about other institutions’ best practices. Sharing ideas is one of the most efficient ways for credit unions to devise new and better systems. In her 16-year career at Navy Army, Johnson has found the willingness of credit unions to pool their knowledge beneficial for both institutions and members alike.

I think we’re providing better service because of it, and our members appreciate it, Johnson says.

Although Arizona Federal came up with the fulfillment center idea, Navy Army adopted it in 2009. Now, the credit union’s contact center only takes calls. The idea of a fulfillment center is simple: Hire a few additional staff members to handle tasks for call center employees, freeing them up to work the phones and serve more members.

Navy Army created a new team to fulfill any requests from members coming through the call center. Instead of printing out forms and documents or mailing members a new debit card, contact center agents enter these tasks into a workflow system, explaining what needs to be done before sending the comments to the fulfillment center. Then the agents are on to the next phone call.

Keeping agents free to take more calls makes sense not only so that more callers can get through but also because it allows agents to continue doing what they do best.

They’re the ones who speak with the member; they do the same thing day in, day out, says Johnson, who also leads Navy Army’s fulfillment center. They can understand more what the members want.

Navy Army adopted the fulfillment center in time to handle a growing membership and the accompanying higher volume of calls. From June 2013 to June 2014, membership grew 10.7%, according to Callahan Associates Peer-to-Peer data, making an efficient call center a necessity.

There are five full-time clerks in the fulfillment center assisting roughly 30 call center agents. From October 2013 through July 2014, the fulfillment department handled 11,458 workflows; in July alone, contact center agents submitted 1,585 workflow requests. In addition to completing workflow requests, the fulfillment center answers any faxes or emails that members send to the credit union.

The fulfillment department handles about 85% to 90% of tasks that come through the call center without having to contact the member. Most of the time the fulfillment team has all the information it needs to complete the job, but occasionally, someone from the team needs to speak with a member.

We try not to have member service contact at all, but we end up having to call our members because certain things are just not clear enough, she says.

August 25, 2014

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