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Credit union call centers are being asked to do more and more every year to better serve their members and improve credit union efficiencies. Outsourcing your call center operations – either altogether, just during after-hours, or simply for loan applications - is becoming increasingly important in achieving the aforementioned goals. The raw numbers alone tell a big story: there are 720 hours in a month but a typical credit union is only open about 171 hours per month – this leaves a shortfall of 549 hours that you are unavailable to your members. The fact of the matter is that in today’s hectic world, more and more of your members expect 7 x 24 service, and realistically, only a handful of the largest credit unions can provide this level of service in-house.
One credit union that started with the after-hours outsourcing approach is Community Federal Credit Union (CFCU) in Plymouth, Mich. They are employing PSCU Financial Services’ Total Member Care to help them with their “loan by phone” and Internet lending operations. While the credit union has four Member Service Representatives (MSRs) on staff in their call center for service related calls and three MSRs in the “sales” area of their call center, they realized that their 34,000+ members’ lending needs extend well past closing time at the credit union.
An interesting feature of CFCU’s use of Total Member Care is that they utilize PSCU Financial Services’ “Virtual” MSRs as overflow during normal business hours - if the queue to reach their internal MSRs backs up beyond 20 – 30 seconds, the calls are automatically forwarded to PSCU Financial Services’ high-tech call center in Auburn Hills, Mich., where they answer the phone as Community Federal Credit Union. This “transparency” of service from the member’s point of view is one of the features that Keith Troup, Vice President of Operations Support at CFCU, really likes about their outsourcing partnership. He notes that while it may cost a bit more to have PSCU Financial Services process the application, that “it is still an affordable service and one that was quicker and less expensive to outsource than for us to develop internally”.
Of course, the least expensive way to process any loan application is the self-service method over the Internet via the credit union’s Web site: the Gartner Group reports that loans originated through online channels cost approximately 20 to 30 percent less to originate. CFCU worked closely with PSCU Financial Services to setup credit scoring criteria so that their sophisticated system could return a decision in a mere 10 –15 seconds. After piloting the system for about 45 days and carefully checking the results of the automated decisioning software manually, the credit union felt comfortable with the system’s integrity and went live with their online consumer lending program in the summer of 2000.
No member is ever rejected in their risk based lending system – the member is either instantly approved or referred to a MSR for further review. Even if they are approved “on the spot”, one of the aforementioned MSRs in the sales call center will contact the member within 24 hours to arrange for disbursement of the loan. Likewise, those members that do not meet the automated decisioning criteria are contacted by a MSR within 24 hours to explore options, clarify details, etc. To encourage their members to use the online lending solution, Community Federal occasionally runs “$50 Specials” where any member whose loan was submitted and approved over the Internet receives $50 upon disbursement the loan.
Another Michigan credit union – Oakland Catholic Credit Union (OCCU) in Troy – has also chosen to outsource their call center and Internet consumer lending operations with PSCU Financial Services. Their “loan by phone” program is an 800 number that is answered in their name by Total Member Care reps and supported in the back office by 11 people in Oakland Catholic’s loan department. As soon as an application is completed via phone or Internet – whether classified as Approved or Pending – it is encrypted and e-mailed from PSCU Financial Services’ call center to the credit union’s lending department. Mary Pittenger, vice president of Lending for the $140 million institution, appreciates this kind of “real-time” service. She points out that under the old “batch” system, their previous outsourcer would fax her staff applications every few hours and that “occasionally a member would call in with a question and we would not even have their application in front us”. Besides having convenient instantaneous access to all loan applications, OCCU employees now spend a lot less wasted time at the fax machine and copier!
Another unique feature of the OCCU and PSCU Financial Services partnership is their commitment to converting “abandoned” applications. If a member does not complete either a phone or online application, they receive a call back within one working day. The results of this member-centric strategy have been impressive: for example, in November of 2001, 7 of the 43 abandoned applications were converted to closed loans.
Just like their counterpart Community Federal Credit Union, Oakland Catholic serves about 34,000 members in Michigan; and exactly like the majority of credit unions across the United States, Mary and her 70 coworkers are dedicated to high levels of member service. Naturally, they expect this type of commitment from their vendors as well.
In addition to detailed monthly reports on PSCU Financial Services’ call center and loan application performance, Mary can listen to any member interaction that she wants to, because the firm records and archives every conversation. Other member-oriented services that the company provides are Web Chat, a Call Me feature and complete support for OCCU’s Cyber-Teller, their Internet home banking program. Web Chat allows a member to open a small window and carry on a typed “conversation” with a Total Member Care MSR; the Call Me button is a very convenient feature that asks for a Phone Number, Name and Best Time to Call Back; and finally, the support for the Cyber-Teller branch covers sign-up issues, bill payment problems and general online banking questions. According to Mary, this outsourcing of their Internet home banking support is a real timesaver for her staff and in her words “works wonderfully”.