The holiday season can be hectic wherever shoppers are swarming and cash registers ringing. But even credit union contact centers, working behind the scenes of consumer spending, can feel the pinch of the holiday shopping season.
Members start calling to check balances in the midst of shopping sprees. Others overdraw their accounts in the holiday bustle, leading to an increase in fee disputes over non-sufficient funds.
Plus, sudden spending spikes can trigger potential fraud alerts, along with calls to verify the charges – which just elicit more questions from members.
Meanwhile, as call volumes increase, employees are taking vacation time, leaving the credit union contact center busier than ever. But it’s important not to let the member experience lapse during the holiday rush.
Prepare your customer service agents with these best practices that will keep your credit union’s contact center running smoothly to deliver excellent member service during the holidays.
- Simplify with a Single Interface.
As communication channels have evolved, many credit unions added chat systems that work separately from their voice systems. That means agents are split into a group of reps logged into chat, and another group of reps answering the phone. If one queue gets backed up and agents start asking for help, then the supervisor must make a manual decision whether to log reps out of one interface into another.
A single decision-making engine can streamline queues from phone calls and chats, as well as other multi-channel contacts like email. It’s easier for reps to manage one integrated system than to bounce around multiple applications, and streamlined multi-channel contact frees supervisors to spend time managing instead of manually allocating staff.
- Avoid Runarounds with Skills-Based Routing.
In a credit union, answering basic calls about share draft balances is very different than addressing complex questions about the loan application process. The first may go to a member service rep, and the latter to a loan officer. The worst thing a contact center could do is bounce members around until they find someone qualified to answer their question.
Skills-based routing can match up calls to the agent with skill sets best suited to the query. So a credit union may identify five agents who take all the credit card questions. And if they’re all busy? Skills-based routing is set within parameters, so once the wait time reaches a threshold (say one minute) then the queue rolls over to the next group of five agents who aren’t quite experts in the topic, but can handle the call to keep wait times down.
Next Page: Monitor Quality
- Monitor Quality through Efficiency and Accuracy.
The longer agents take on a call, the more they impact wait time. But it’s crucial that agents are giving proper, accurate information during the call to resolve the issue. If, in a rush to answer the next call, they give misinformation, it only causes repeat calls, inflating volume while worsening your service level.
Instead of putting time limits on interactions, urge first-call resolution by encouraging reps to take as long as they need to do it right. You need tools to effectively monitor this, because if you’re just overhearing the conversation without seeing what information agents access on their screens, you might be able to detect accuracy but not efficiency. The best quality monitoring includes call recording and screen captures so you can observe whether agents are digging through transactional data or just browsing Facebook.
- Invest in the Right Tools.
As member-focused financial cooperatives with not-for-profit status, credit unions are traditionally frugal when it comes to managing costs. It can be contrary to realize that sometimes you have to spend a little money to save a lot of money.
Upgrading your contact center with technology that enables these best practices can be costly, especially if your credit union has outdated systems. At first, it might seem more cost-effective to just lease a separate chat system, but you’re only adding obstacles.
Invest in the right technology for seamless multi-channel interaction. You’ll actually save more in efficiency and improved cost of operations, reducing labor while improving service.
- Review the Holiday Rush.
After the holiday rush subsides, the best thing you can do is review what you did right, what could have been done better, and how you can improve before the next holiday season rolls around. If you don’t make any changes, you’ll face the same struggles next year.
Having shared these best practices, it’s important to note that technology will not magically fix your credit union’s contact center. Software doesn’t fix bad management or operation practices. The proper software and systems can help, but it only gives managers the technology tools to manage the contact center better.
The good news is: Once you apply these best practices, they don’t just serve you during peak holiday volume. They can improve your contact center into 2014 and beyond.