<p>WEST PALM BEACH -When the going gets tough, members expect more from their financial institutions. "So many members use the Web, voice response systems or their ATM cards to find out basic account information so they don't really go into the credit union as much anymore," said Kowal Associates, Inc. Senior Consultant Marcia W. Hicks. "So especially now you'll want to enhance or make the most of whatever contact they do have with your credit union. Call center representatives can't just simply answer a question and send the members on their way because this may be their only chance to interact with them." According to Hicks, good member service can begin and end with the call center representatives who answer the phone. "If you have the wrong people on the job your members' experience could simply be left to the luck of the draw." Hicks offers the following tips on keeping call center staff motivated: Keep them in the loop regarding changes in the company or special promotions. Nothing is worse than a representative hearing from a member what is going on in the credit union. Not only does it look bad, but also the representative is left feeling like an outsider and wonders if he/she is valued or even appreciated. Understand how boring the job can get and find ways to let the reps have fun. They will then start looking forward to coming in and it will come through in their voice. Recognize that although they are sometimes the first point of contact with members, representatives are generally the lowest paid so if you provide food it represents true money in their pocket and is sometimes even more appreciated than giving it to them in a paycheck where it will be taxed. Make sure you are prepared to handle peak times so the rep doesn't feel overwhelmed by the calls and the member isn't left on hold. If your center can't handle the subsequent increase in contacts from promotional campaigns, it may be wise to plan the upcoming program in stages. One idea is to stagger a direct mail campaign by mailing to different parts of your target population on different dates. This may be impossible for some programs, but it should be considered as an option when you attempt to even out the amount of contacts handled during peak days and/or hours. You will then be better able to handle customer contacts promptly. Reward them! Gift certificates for a restaurant or movie tickets are great incentive items. "Social" gifts are best, because they offer the reps a chance to do something with their family or friends. Don't reward reps for handling a certain volume of calls. "Short" contacts are not necessarily "good" contacts. Often, the opposite is true. [email protected]</p>

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