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BEAVERTON, Ore. — You can learn some interesting things looking at the reports from your third-party call center.Just ask Seth Schaefer, sales director at the $413 million Rivermark Community Credit Union. His 46,000-member CU became a client earlier this year of Digital Dialogue, using its outbound calling services for sales and retention work, and knowing they’re there to make calls about credit card compromises and other alerts if necessary.“We know through our member contact management software that we’ve had a 20% jump in positive responses from outbound calls to members who had declined the exact same offer in the branch,” Schaefer said.“That shows you the power of a crafted, branded and benefit-led statement,” he said.Also, noted Digital Dialogue President Peter Schmitt, the members tend to be in the branch for a reason other than being cross sold. “They want to get in and out,” he said. “On the phone, you can have a more focused conversation and better enunciate the sales pitch.”And while telemarketing is typically not particularly well regarded at the receiving end, Schmitt said that’s not necessarily so for credit union calls.“Telemarketing works. That’s why it’s a $600 billion industry. And certainly, a segment of the population does not want a phone call, but less than 3% of credit union members feel that way when it’s their credit union calling,” he said.“The strong majority are very welcoming and appreciative of being called to find out what their credit union can do to serve them better and, more importantly, what their credit union can do to save them money.”Or make them more. In one of its first projects with Digital Dialogue, Rivermark offered to increase the interest on existing CDs as much as 100 basis points as a thank you to members the credit union was particularly interested in retaining.“That was an interesting campaign because members are not used to being called and offered something that benefits them like that. We got a lot of calls back from people asking us if we were serious, that it was too good to be true,” Schaefer said.That was a select group of members with four or more services and over $75,000 in deposits at Rivermark and generated a response rate of about 28%, the Rivermark sales director said.“Those were people we identified as can’t lose members,” Schaefer said. “Up here in the Pacific Northwest we’re dealing considerably with the Washington Mutual fallout, and there’s a lot of competition and a lot of price shopping going on.”Schmitt added, “It’s an extraordinary time for credit unions right now. We have the opportunity to get the word out and make consumers aware of the benefits of being a credit union member and we need to do it now.”Digital Dialogue is part of PSCU Financial Services and based in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills. It employs about 1,400 people in four locations-two in Michigan, one in Phoenix and the other in St. Petersburg, Fla. It serves a little more than 200 credit unions, a number that has been rising as credit unions turn to third parties to handle call center duties, particularly as an overflow and after hours.Schaefer said his credit union still has an in-bound call center and did have an outbound calling program but needed to be able to better reach members when they’re available, which often isn’t during the day.“You’ve got to reach members when they’re most reachable,” he said.That might be especially urgent when the call is about a credit card breach or some other security issue.“We’re prepared to use it for a credit card compromise, but knock on wood, haven’t had to do that,” Schaefer said. “We’re also looking at using Digital Dialogue’s service that makes trigger-based calls based on Equifax reports.”Schmitt said Digital Dialogue has done a number of alert campaigns involving credit card or Social Security number breaches, usually about one every couple months.“We can lay down an automated voice track or have it done by a live person if a live person picks up the phone. We can also do text-based messaging and tie it in with e-mail,” he said.“Credit unions also have used us in their disaster recovery process for their own staff,” Schmitt said. “We can broadcast messages to their staff, for instance to let them know, the latest status on branch locations, instead of them trying to coordinate it through individual cell phones.”Schaefer said Rivermark chose Digital Dialogue “because we felt they had a similar philosophy in contact points with the member. They don’t do a hard sell on the phone and we don’t do that in the branch.“It’s always needs-based benefit selling, and using the outbound calling service provides an additional contact point with the member. We went into this not knowing what the response would be, but generally speaking, our members have responded well.”Schmitt at Digital Dialogue added, “Members want to know the benefits their credit unions offer. Statement stuffers are not getting it done.”–mrapport@cutimes.com

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