How Teachers Credit Union's Call Center Has Achieved 'Excellence'

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-Teachers Credit Union's TCU Member Call Center has been certified as a "Center of Excellence" by BenchmarkPortal for the second year in a row.

Becky Summers, SVP of sales and marketing for the $2.2-billion credit union, said the BenchmarkPortal ratings look at several measurable factors, including experience of the members. This includes call wait time, abandonment rate and first call resolution.

"One of biggest positives we had was first call resolution," she said. "When members called the reps resolved the problem a high percentage of the time, meaning members did not have to call back."

Summers said the call center also earned high marks for employee engagement, which she said was no accident.

"BenchmarkPortal asked our employees how satisfied they are and we got high marks there, too," she said. "We do a lot of training on three fronts: One, soft skills, including 'smiling' on the phone and giving a warm greeting. Two, products and services. The reps know the ins and outs of how things work on a functional level. And three, technical skills, they know how to find information on our core system for the members and do so quickly."


'Special' People Needed

According to Summers, in addition to the emphasis on training, the employees at TCU's call center are "very motivated" to serve its members every day. She said it takes a "special person" to take call after call, and the credit union prides itself on finding people who can handle the stress.

"Sometimes members who call in are happy and other times they are not, and it can be draining," she said. "We start with extensive interviewing and do so over the phone because that is how they are going to do business."

TCU also conducts some face-to-face interviews before hiring a new call center rep, she continued, but what management really wants to know is how the candidates handle themselves over the phone. A final factor is writing skills, because as reps become more advanced they handle e-mail communications, as well.

Why is the TCU call center so successful? Summers said the environment is a "positive one" that allows the reps to get the support they need. The supervisors are in the same space, which allows them to help the reps with a tough call. The reps have wireless headsets that allow them to move around, which Summers noted breaks up the monotony of sitting in one place while handling call after call.


No Outsourcing

Many CUs have chosen to outsource the call center function, but Summers said TCU-which is the largest credit union in Indiana-made a decision to maintain control.

"Given the skills of our reps, we wanted to serve the members ourselves," she explained. "We use outside call center support for certain things, such as reporting fraud on a credit or debit card, but in general we want to serve our members directly."

TCU's relationship with BenchmarkPortal began simply because the credit union was looking for a way to measure its success and investigate best practices for its call center. Summers said the CU was referred to BenchmarkPortal, which synthesizes data "so we can compare to our peers."

"We just wanted to get better at what we do, and the award side is just a bonus," said Summers.

BenchmarkPortal describes itself as the custodian of the Center for Customer-Driven Quality's database of contact center metrics, the largest in the world, founded in 1995 by Dr. Jon Anton at Purdue University. BenchmarkPortal is involved in call center benchmarking, call center industry reports, call center training and call center certification worldwide.

For info: www.benchmarkportal.com