In the past two years, the staff at Empower Federal Credit Union has been able to compare and contrast the before and after experience of merging credit unions with and without a knowledge management system in place to answer member and employee questions.
The first merger was the combination of Empower and Empire FCU in 2007, “a merger of equals,” said Karen Hotchkiss, director of e-commerce at the 80,000-member credit union in Syracuse, N.Y.
The second was the merger of 2,900-member Nest Egg FCU with Empower, which took place after the larger credit union had launched its management system from SilverCloud Knowledge Systems.
The difference was considerable, Hotchkiss said. In the first merger, there wasn’t time to get all the procedures written and rolled out to the staff, causing some issues with consistency “and some level of service decline,” she said.
Exactly how much? “You don’t need a metric. You just know,” Hotchkiss said.
For the second merger, Empower had in place employee and member knowledge systems, allowing the credit union to post FAQs and other information on its Web and intranet.
“We created them ourselves, thinking of any questions we could that would be of particular importance to members-things like, ‘Would I have to destroy my checks?’ and ‘What’s going to happen to my payroll deposit after the merger?’ and ‘Can I still use my ATM or debit card?”’
As for the staff, because there was no consolidation of branches, “they had to learn all these new products and procedures that we already had in place, but with the SilverCloud system, all the information was there,” facilitating a smooth transition, Hotchkiss said.
SilverCloud said its software helps with such transitions by providing a cohesive platform for combining or transferring technology and people processes, as well as merging marketing and sales initiatives and standardizing audit and compliance procedures across the combined organization.
While knowledge systems routinely provide templates with typical questions, Empower chose to create its own FAQs, Hotchkiss said.
“We had a team chosen from directors of each department go back to their employees and get the FAQs from their employees, and then we built an employee directory, with pictures and job responsibilities, and that also helped us bring a little bit of cohesion as we added 17 new employees,” she said.
Now that the merger is complete, the benefits continue, the credit union said.
“Consistency, in particular, is the biggest benefit right now,” said Jim Reynolds, senior vice president of operations at $710 million Empower FCU. “We’re able to all communicate the same information the same way, and all that information is housed in one centralized location where employees are conditioned to go first.”
Reynolds also pointed to new efficiencies in internal communications. “For example, instead of bogging down the system with an e-mail attachment,…we’re able to post our credit union newsletter on SilverCloud and send our 280 employees there to see it,” he said.
Many of those individual employees also now take advantage of the system’s ability to provide customized pages, such as one that contains links to NADA for loan officers. All that efficiency adds up to improved service and savings, Hotchkiss said.
“It’s made a huge difference from a training perspective,” she said. And there have been financial paybacks, too.
Hotchkiss said Empower has saved an estimated $102,244 with the member-facing module, based on 25,561 views since November 2007 at $4 per view. The employee-facing component, meanwhile, has saved the credit union about $379,308 at $4 per view based on 98,827 times it’s been used since it was launched in April 2008.
She said SilverCloud estimates the cost of a member having to research and respond to a member query for information costs at about $8, but that while her credit union has not studied the cost savings, “we believe $4 per question would better reflect our savings.”
Looking ahead, Empower is considering using other SilverCloud offerings, including training manuals and testing modules and “a number of different document management books,” Hotchkiss said, and is involved in helping the software company develop an executive dashboard.
“SilverCloud approached us and asked if we wanted to be a part of the product group that is designing dashboards for credit unions,” Hotchkiss said. “We’re providing as much input as we can.”
New Hampshire-based SilverCloud first began operations with a core of about 20 credit unions as customers and now serves about 160 credit unions as well as large universities, technology companies, federal agencies and manufacturers, according to Scott Cornell, vice president of sales and marketing and a company founder.
Cornell said the dashboard solution is one of a “host of new products” the company is developing.
“I’m not sure of the release date yet, but it is a true executive dashboard that will pull together data from many systems and summarize it in a very interactive way,” Cornell said.
“We will display dozens of key performance indicators such as assets, liabilities, loan and mortgage metrics, call-center efficiency, customer satisfaction, fraud details and such,” he said.
“The idea is to create something that is fast to roll out but still very flexible for the credit union,” Cornell said.
–mrapport@cutimes.com