By W.B. King
When Linn Area Credit Union decided to undertake a core conversion in July 2019, the executive team knew the multi-factored task would be challenging. Among the action items was updating instrumental software and systems that operate critical financial transactions and functions. Adding to the Herculean task was the arrival of COVID-19 in March 2020. And the following July, the Marion, Iowa-based credit union, serving more than 24,000 members, also undertook a credit card conversion. This included reissuing roughly 6,000 cards to members.
Knowing that members would likely have many questions during this transitional period, the credit union posted the following message on its website: “If there’s something you would like to know but can’t find it, please give us a call.”
Linn Area Credit Union’s Vice President of Information Technology Rich Head said: “Anytime anything changes that impacts members, they will call.”
During that period, the credit union experienced more than a 200% increase in its abandonment rate. The immense increase of calls followed the core conversion.
“We knew we were going to take a hit with the conversion, and with a high abandonment rate, it did impact our members’ satisfaction scores,” noted Head.
Vetting Call-Back Technologies
While Linn Area Credit Union had doubled its call center member service representatives since 2018, Head said that this hiring rate wasn’t realistic for the long-term. In an effort to combat the high call volume experienced after the conversion and reissuing of credit cards, Head’s team approached the retail department regarding a call-back solution that could, in part, eliminate the need for members to spend long periods of time waiting on the phone.
After conducting its due diligence and vetting vendors, Linn Area Credit Union selected the Toronto, Ontario-based Fonolo. The company offers a cloud-based call back solution and counts 14 credit unions as clients.
“The team at Linn Area CU was fantastic from the start. They entered the conversation with a clear goal of improving their member experience and a strong understanding of how it impacts their overall business as well as their agent experience,” said Fonolo’s CEO Shai Berger.
“Linn Area CU approached us knowing that adopting call-backs isn’t just about managing high call volumes or improving performance metrics,” Berger continued. “It’s also about investing in the experience they offer their members and building long-term loyalty through exceptional service and support.”
Linn Area CU signed with Fonolo in December 2019 and went live with the company’s Voice Call-Backs solution in March of 2020.
“Usually it doesn’t take that long, but with the winter holidays in play, it wasn’t possible to start implementation until the New Year,” said Berger. “In a few short months, we had their call-backs up and running.”
Getting the Call-Back Model Right
While every project and credit union is different, the time frame required for implementation is typically quick, explained Berger.
“If a client is using our cloud deployment model, it can be completed between a few days to a couple of weeks,” he said. “Credit unions require an extra layer of security to ensure customer data remains secure and meets compliance requirements. In this case, we offer a hybrid model with an on-site appliance which can be launched in 30 to 60 days depending on the availability of the client and their technical resources.”
Calling the solution scaleable to any credit union size, Berger said credit unions do not need extensive IT resources to deploy the Voice Call-Backs solution.
“Our customer success team is comprised of highly trained solutions engineers who support the implementation, but we do require internal support from the client’s technical team to complete the launch,” Berger said. “In larger organizations, we may have multiple contacts for implementation, and in smaller businesses, there may only be one person who handles everything.”
While Berger said it is “important to us that our clients have the skills and autonomy to manage their call-back system,” he added that “very little training” is required, which is included in the cost of the solution.
“Our Voice Call-Backs are designed to be intuitive and user-friendly from both a customer and agent perspective. We have a lot of credit unions who come back pleasantly surprised at how quickly their members adopt and embrace the new feature,” Berger noted. “Our solutions engineers can support your team with report creation and consumption training for business users. We also provide training on feature management so your team can customize your user experience and leverage call-backs tactically to improve contact center key performance indicators (KPIs) and general performance.”
Reducing Abandonment Rates and Improving Member Satisfaction
Head noted that through 2020 there was a 34% increase in call volume. The combination of the new hires and Fonolo’s solution allowed the credit union to decrease its abandonment rate by nearly 35%.
“With Fonolo, we saw an impact with members and staff in the first week of deployment and the immediate feedback was that both members and staff love it,” Head said.
Call center supervisor Shannon Gorman added that she was surprised at how speedily members adapted to the solution.
“They are sometimes surprised at how quickly we do call them back,” Gorman said. By implementing Fonolo’s solution, she added that the credit union was able to ramp up training initiatives without sacrificing service. “I shudder to think what our statistics would have looked like without Fonolo.”
Gorman also noted that Fonolo’s portal allows for viewing real-time statistics and streamlines holiday scheduling.
“It’s very easy to use, and I like that I can see real-time stats like call-backs pending as well as how long they’ve been virtually waiting,” she said. “I can also make changes to the schedule as needed, which was very labor-intensive in previous systems.”
Berger explained that every credit union and respective contact center will have unique challenges. The best way to determine if a call-back solution makes sense is to speak to an expert, he said.
“There are a lot of call-back solutions out there, but they are not all made equal. One thing people should know is that call-backs can be used strategically to improve performance results for your contact center,” he said. “Fonolo acts as an insurance policy for when unexpected call spikes hit, especially at the beginning of the work week. By offering members a call-back, you can keep your call queues at manageable levels, while alleviating stress from your agents so they can focus on supporting your members.”
While the merits of the call-back solution were immediate in Head’s opinion, there were ancillary benefits like the impact on call data, which he said has been valuable for alleviating long customer hold queues. And Looking forward, Linn Area Credit Union plans to adopt Fonolo’s Visual IVR solution, which will give members the ability to request and schedule call-backs from the credit union’s website.
“We traditionally have a very high member satisfaction ratio, and we pride ourselves on that and are always striving to do the best we can for our members,” Head said. “Fonolo helps us with that goal.”
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