NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.-It was the combination of effective technology and collective perseverance that scored South Carolina Federal Credit Union's Stephanie Ownby Verint's Innovator of the Year award for branch excellence.
But for Ownby and her team, the real "score" was saving money, increased efficiency and streamlined operations.
"The reason we sought out this type of technology is because our senior management did site visits at our 17 branch locations and realized we had an opportunity to run our branches more efficiently," said Ownby, manager of management information services. "We had overstaffing issues in some of our branches and understaffing in others. We also had a difficult time with our contact center, as our average speed of answer was around four minutes, whereas the industry standard is 20 seconds."
The goal was to align staffing with member traffic in all SCFCU's branches. With 411 employees serving 163,000 members, there was no longer a margin for error. "We realized that we had difficulties providing excellent service. So we had problems at our contact center, which has 35 employees, but also we began seeing turnover patterns in certain positions and we wanted to learn why we were having these difficulties."
How to Streamline Operations
The first step was searching for a technology platform that could integrate the credit union's phone system. After a discovery process and due diligence, a new phone system was purchased and integrated. That process started with the contact center, then the collections department, loss prevention, branch networks and, most recently, the back office.
"This allowed us to break down barriers and streamline the work processes we had so calls were routed to the right department without having to go through the call center first," said Ownby.
While this was a positive step forward for the credit union, it also underscored other existing problems.
"We gained intelligence that we were still overstaffed and had opportunity to increase efficiency at our contact center and our branch locations." That conclusion led Ownby to Verint and its Workforce Management software, which the company acquired from GMT.
With the software in place, Ownby was able to project transactional volumes from historical transactional data and schedule variable workforce teams and training, and only hire new employees based on forecasted needs. An additional benefit was that SCFCU integrated the software with its phone and transactional system thus addressing front-line staffing needs more efficiently.
"This allowed us to reduce our staffing cost which is a credit unions' biggest expenses. Also, we now know that we had the right person at the right place and the right time doing the right tasks." Reductions were quickly realized. Ownby explained that tellers positions were reduced by 13%, the "platform side" realized a 5% drop while the call center remained even.
SCFCU's IT department, which is home to approximately 30 employees, did not realize a reduction; rather, the new combined system has allowed each employee to tackle more day-to-day issues.
"They were pivotal in rolling out the phone system, and now we have just one person dedicated to the system to keep it up and running," said Ownby. "With regard to the workforce management tool, as far as day-to-day, we don't really have any real need for our IT department. In the beginning they helped setting up the server and the feeds from our core data system into the tool, but basically once the project was complete all the data feeds were set up, our IT department doesn't have any involvement unless of course an issue comes up."
Since roll out, SCFCU has experienced an increase in forecast accuracy and now consistently projects future volumes with an above 90% accuracy. Additionally, it has seen a 10% increase in Workload Fit, a product that measures how accurately staffing requirements are met. And the average speed of calls answered dropped from four minutes to roughly 30 seconds.
"A few years ago we conducted a survey which found that only 50% of our members were promoting us as a financial institution; a recent similar survey found that number to be 90%," said Ownby. "Our team here at the credit union really banded together and successfully accomplished our goals."
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