The Evolution of Member Service Now Circles Back to Your Call Center

We thought we were done with the telephone. After all, we no longer remember people’s numbers; we don’t leave or retrieve voicemail. We got rid of our landlines. We don’t call an 800-number to order Ron Popeil’s latest gadget (oh, Hair in a Can, where are you?): We go online. We text, email, video chat, Facebook, vlog, Twitter and FaceTime. With all that innovative communication, who needs the phone?

If you’re a credit union, the answer is you. It’s not just that member call centers are an expected piece of the customer service puzzle. It’s that telephone access is becoming a hot commodity in the scramble for greater efficiency, enhanced member loyalty and greater revenue.

Why re-think your telephone service strategy now? 

As members visit branches less often, the need for remote services goes up. Online banking, ATMs and – now – mobile services are changing the way members manage their financial lives. But as they use remote services more and more, the chances they will need remote, round-the-clock human interaction also increases.

Credit unions need to leverage personal interaction. Self-service is huge, but as members spend less and less time interacting with live people at their credit union, opportunities to deliver loyalty-building service (let alone cross-sell) dwindle.

Expectations for call center service are high, but unfortunately service can be spotty. Credit unions that offer telephone service only during business hours (or, worse, banker’s hours) are missing the mark. Inaccurate volume forecasts and/or light staff coverage can lead to long, even ridiculous, hold times. What if the caller speaks Spanish? Or reaches a representative who fails to represent?

You wouldn’t settle for poor service or sporadic coverage at your branches. And if you’re forward-thinking, you’ve had plenty to contemplate with new channels like mobile banking and social media. But this doesn’t mean you should neglect your call center strategy. Demand is growing, and so is your credit union.

Is the idea of fully staffing and running a 24/7 call center daunting? It should be. For most individual credit unions, it’s a challenge that borders on the impossible. Outsourcing is a solution, but not all outsourcing is created equal. With the right partnership, you should be able to:

  • Provide signature service. Callers should feel like they’re talking to a member of your team.
  • Meet quality standards. No unanswered calls, no excessive hold times, and issues should be resolved to your members’ satisfaction. This is especially critical today, when many callers are on the line with problems and concerns. At these moments you either win greater loyalty or build a grudge. Effective service is a must.
  • Offer loan assistance on the spot. Members won’t wait until Monday to get help with their loans. If you don’t answer the call, someone else will.
  • Flex your capacity. Need additional staffing power around a big campaign? Anticipating questions when you upgrade your systems? Get more help when you need it – and not when you don’t.
  • Cross-sell and upsell. When it’s appropriate, call center staff should be trained to provide information on additional products or upgrades – something you can’t do well online or by smartphone.
  • Get feedback. Say you’ve just changed your billing procedures on auto loans. Your call center starts receiving inquiries about the new billing cycle. That feedback can help shape what you do in the future: Alter your billing cycle or communicate better about the changes.
  • Make outbound calls. Got an offer your members would be crazy to refuse? The same outstanding staff that handles your inbound calls can contact members on your behalf. 
  • Support for Internet member access. It is a brave new world of innovative communication, so your call center should provide Internet support as well.