ROCHESTER, N.Y.-ESL FCU improved its member satisfaction rating and increased teller transaction speed shortly after it converted to a new core system.

If CUs are fortunate, service levels stay the same or drop only slightly right after a conversion, noted Michael Rawlins of Open Solutions. While those CUs usually see improvement, the initial change can have a painful effect on member service.

ESLFCU converted to Open Solutions' DNA platform. The $4-billion CU credits quickly delivering higher service levels to preparation in advance of the switch, a strong core system that performs, and having detailed employee performance metrics in place.

"We have had strong employee performance metrics for some time," said Mike Armbruster, ESLFCU SVP and operations center director. "Not too long after conversion we decided to look at some of the staff timing numbers to see how we were faring. That's when we saw the 12% increase in transaction processing speed at the teller line."

Armbruster cited a "rigorous" training program that allowed staff time each week, up to the switch, to practice on the new system.

"We benchmarked other institutions and one thing that came though clearly was that you need to communicate the conversion to members rather than treat the event as business as usual, or not tell them," Armbruster explained. "We made a significant investment in member communication so they really knew what was going to happen, when it would happen, and what their new account numbers would be."

Equal credit goes to the conversion project team-which conducted numerous tests before the switch was made and ensured staff knew what they needed to do.

Armbruster, and Jillian Reitano, branch operations manger, knew the CU would have no idea how well the conversion went without metrics. The CU each year spends a day in each office, timing staff to determine how long tasks should take. "We have done this for few years, and we usually do not see those numbers move much. Usually the average transaction time might move 1% to 2%. But for it to move 12%, something significant had to happen."

The CU's member loyalty index, which actually moved up slightly, also let ESLFCU know the conversion was handled well. Without sharing loyalty figures, Armbruster said the credit union followed the numbers closely post-conversion. "While the numbers did not move up a lot, they did move up. I don't know how often a credit union converts its core system and the member satisfaction score increases."

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