ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – PSCU Financial Services’ call center has always been a vital part of the 30-year CUSO’s business. But last year the company broke it out as a separate line of business, and now the call center is being used to help credit unions with expanded community fields of membership deal with the immediate capacity issues they face. “We have an infrastructure that’s large enough and technology driven enough to help a credit union’s CEO respond to their significantly expanded field-of-membership until the credit union either builds their own call center or ramps up to service the expanded field-of-membership,” says PSCU Financial President David Serlo. PSCU’s St. Petersburg call center accepted more than 10 million calls in 2005. The facility is open 24/7, and by August 1 the CUSO expects to open a second call center in Phoenix that will also be open 24/7 and will have the same technology and capacity as the St. Petersburg call center. The St. Petersburg Contact Center includes two buildings one of which is predominantly the call center, and each building is 100,000 square feet. The new Phoenix facility is 50,000 square feet. By the end of the summer, PSCU Financial Services expects to have 1,000 employees, of which two-thirds will work in the call centers. The remaining one-third will deal directly with member credit unions. “Most credit unions aren’t open 24/7, so the call center gives them the capability to be more competitive with larger financial institutions that have scale and are open 24/7,” says Serlo, adding, “The beauty of how we’re positioned is the credit union’s management has the option of using the call center short or long term or mixing using the call center sometimes like on holidays or weekends and taking calls from members directly at other times.” When a credit union applies for a large FOM expansion, “then somewhere in their business plan they have to address how they’re going to respond to so many new members. Many of them probably assume their expanded FOM will be served by home banking. But many members will demand the personal touch. One system isn’t better than another, you need to have all channels of business open. The quickest way to do that is take advantage of a CUSO you’re already an owner of and that already has features like bilingual employees.” About a third of the call center representatives in both the St. Petersburg and Phoenix locations are bilingual. Since the time it takes for an FOM expansion application to work its way through the federal or state regulatory approval process can be unpredictable, many credit unions may opt to wait until they have the approval in-hand to set things up with PSCU Financial’s call center to handle calls. Serlo said if the CUSO already has a relationship with the CU’s data processing platform it could take as little as 60 days for the necessary arrangements to be completed. However if a credit union is starting from scratch “it could take a longer period of time.” PSCU Financial Services currently serves nearly 875 credit unions and collectively serves over 350,000 CU members monthly, and each credit union has its own rules, policies and procedures on things like pricing and products in the call center’s database. When a member calls in, they’re asked to enter their account number so the call center representative answering the call knows instantly which credit union the caller is from and can talk with the member “as intelligently as if the rep is an employee of the credit union,” says Serlo. In addition to answering members’ questions, the call center can also take loan applications since it can access the credit union’s product and rate information. PSCU Financial’s call center is also equipped to serve as a business recovery center for member credit unions. That functionality, says Serlo, means a credit union’s staff can focus on getting the credit union up and running while knowing their members are still being served during the recovery time. – [email protected]

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