Elevations Credit Union Reaches New Heights in Contact Center Efficiency
The $891 million credit union in Boulder, Colo., has cut its ongoing labor costs by 25%-about $200,000 a year-and has seen sharp gains in service levels and staff productivity using the GMT Planet solution, said Les Boothby, assistant vice president of retail operations support.
There were 25 agents working at the contact center, a level that has been reduced by about 25% after the WFO solution replaced "scheduling by gut feeling and Excel spreadsheets," Boothby said.
The transition was not without its issues.
"Because manual scheduling is a hard habit to break, there was a bit of a learning curve from a behavioral and change-management perspective," Boothby said.
"The hardest part in learning to use the software is to let the application do its job and trust the data," he said. "When you're used to scheduling manually or using Microsoft Excel, the GMT schedules don't look like they make sense."
They soon did, however. Elevations began using the system with a benchmark of answering 77% of all calls in less than 30 seconds. As the system incorporated more live history, the center found itself answering 85% of all calls in 20 seconds or less, Boothby said.
He said the center also operates at 80% to 85% productivity in terms of agents on the phone helping members during their scheduled work time. "Management buy-in was very quick," Boothby said. Not so much for line staff, who had to deal with changes in expected break times, for instance, to deal with predicted member call volume."
"But when the staff begins seeing results, like their service levels going up, they're less stressed and morale goes up," he said.
Boothby said he has one staffer dedicated to managing the system and two others who help with reporting and "taking some of the more task-oriented stuff off the plate of supervisors so they can spend more time working with staff and members."
The system learns as it goes and has easily picked up on trends that changed as the credit union opened three new branches, Boothby said.
"We've seen a cascading range of benefits," he said. "Our leap of operational efficiency has translated into not only higher service levels and reduced labor costs but also increased member loyalty and bandwidth for lenders to answer loan calls."
The software is intended to address a recurring theme, the company said.
"What we see in our industry is that one of the major sources of poor member experience is long waits in the branch or on the phone," said Simon Angove, CEO of GMT Corp. in Norcross, Ga.
"You always want to have enough agents available to meet member needs, but meanwhile, labor accounts for more than 60% of your overall costs, so how do you strike the balance you need?" Angove said.
"You do that by predicting future demand and scheduling the right number of agents and tellers to do that," he said.
Angove said his company has just more than 150 customers, including Citibank and Bank of America, but is increasingly working with smaller institutions. Even those with 10 branches or so can easily see the benefits, he said.
"Say you're using Excel to match up call volume and staffing for a 25-agent center. And say each person can start a shift at eight, nine or 10 in the morning. You're looking at about 847 billion possible combinations," he said. "How can you do that in Excel in a way that's the most efficient and cost-effective?"
Angove said his company's software looks at transaction and sales history, short- and long-term trends, holidays, vacations, local factors such as the event schedule at a nearby stadium, and other factors to come up with its forecasts.
"Our clients report 98% accuracy," he said.
Boothby at Elevations CU concurred. "A few weeks ago, we scheduled a training session for three in the afternoon, expecting it to be slow, but then we checked what GMT Planet was predicting for us, and it said 167 calls in that period. So we rescheduled the session, and we got 165 calls," he said.
Angove said, looking forward, his company is working to expand beyond branches and contact centers into back office operations.
"Whether it's processing loans and mortgages, managing lock boxes or cash-handling operations, or working with new account openings, you need to staff effectively," the GMT CEO said.
"We see enterprisewide staffing as a big area for us," he said. "We're also looking at performance management, at closing the loop with a lot more performance reporting and training to make sure the system is being used to its potential.
"Because it doesn't matter how easy workforce optimization technology can be made to use, at the end of the day, if the plan isn't followed, it's worthless."