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RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Surf’s Up and calls are down at Altura Credit Union’s member service center, where a homegrown effort has helped move callers off the phone and onto the Internet for routine business. Altura’s call center was averaging about 12,000 calls per month from members wanting nothing more than balances or simple transfers. The CU wanted to reduce that number as well as encourage the growth of online banking in general among its 103,000 members, nearly 25,000 of whom already have signed on to the less-expensive channel. So along came Surf’s Up, the name given an internal promotional program in which member service representatives won awards such as gift cards to Starbuck, Jamba Juice and Target for getting members off the phone and onto the Internet by simply asking them: “Do you know about our online banking? We’d like to send you an e-mail with demos on how it works.” Stephanie Redmond, e-commerce manager at the $700 million CU, used two software programs to empower the effort. One was the credit unions’ existing EmailLabs marketing package, which generates a secure form for the member’s account number, e-mail address and teller ID. The other was Captivate, a Macromedia program that Redmond used to create the online banking demonstration screens. “What happens is once you put the e-mail address in and hit `submit,’ the member gets an e-mail with the links to the online demos, including security policies and instant enrollment, so right there on the phone, the member service rep can even walk them through it if they want to,” Redmond says. The Surf’s Up incentive program ran for two months and saw 782 new online bankers sign up, about half of the total number receiving the e-mails and sharply more than would normally sign up in that period. The CU spent about $500 for the Captivate program, about $500 for the incentives for the MSRs, and the investment in Redmond’s time for writing the demo scripts and online movements. The return on that investment? “We estimate we’ll save nearly $50,000 a year just from people not calling for account balances and routine things like that, and you have to remember that online members tend to be more profitable in the long run, too,” Redmond says. “It’s a little harder to measure, but we think just those 782 new online bankers will mean about $214,000 more to the credit union over time,” she adds. Redmond says it was professionally satisfying taking an existing product like the EmailLabs tools and putting them to a new use “Normally it’s used for targeted marketing, generating letters, updating profiles, that sort of thing, but we decided this time to put it in the hands of our member service people to see what we could make happen with it,” she says. “It was simple to create, links directly to our Symitar (core processing) system, and is still being used by our member service department. We keep track to see if this is just a one-time type thing, and it really hasn’t been,” Redmond says. The Surf’s Up promotion was strictly internal. To get the members themselves involved, the CU decided to run a promotion from Nov. 7 to Dec. 16 offering such prizes as an iPod, laptop computer, even a dream vacation, to potential new online bankers willing to look at the demos and sign up. It’s on the Web page at www.altura.com. “This time we’re using these tools to incent the members,” Redmond says. -

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