Answering The Call — And Quickly

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YORKTOWN, Va. — Members calling into 1st Advantage FCU here used to wait an average of five minutes on hold until an agent picked up the call. At least 10% of them would give up.

Now, members get quick access to the right call center agent-or can simply request a call-back-thanks to new features in "cloud-based" contact center software.

"We're running more efficiently because of skill-based call routing and our call-back feature," said Diane Davenport, contact center manager at the $500-million CU.

Fewer agents are needed to field calls, saving $60,000 to $90,000 per year in salaries since the CU launched automated call distribution (ACD) and interactive voice response (IVR) software four years ago from inContact, said Davenport. 1st Advantage now keeps 12 call center agents on staff, instead of up to 16, she said.

inContact is a Salt Lake City-based provider of call center solutions that are hosted from central servers over the Internet.

Member wait-time has dropped to an average of 2.4 minutes in 2010, down from five minutes in 2006, and the abandon rate is now 4%, down from 10% in 2006.

Skill-based call routing automatically routes members to the agent or representative at one of 11 branches who has the knowledge needed to respond to the call, whether it be a loan problem or a VISA card question. General account inquiries are instantly directed to a third-party call center or to IVR.

Of course, all callers initially use IVR to indicate whether they are interested in talking about loans, VISA or account information or want to dial a direct extension.

The previous call center software didn't allow 1st Advantage to assign calls according to an agent's skills, continued Davenport. "Agents had to be assigned to two separate queues-the loan call queue or the account information queue-or run back and forth between them."

Davenport said she can monitor spikes in call volume in real-time and then respond by immediately shifting the call-routing rules so that the highest-priority calls are addressed more quickly. The outbound message can also be changed on-the-fly to update members on general news, which often results in fewer members waiting on the line.

Some 30% of callers choose the call-back feature instead of waiting in queue, Davenport said. "I get fewer complaints from members about waiting when they are given the call-back option, because it makes them feel like they more control over the call."

Members are presented with the call-back option when call volumes and wait-time hit a predetermined level-which ideally would be less than one minute. inContact bookmarks the member's place in the queue, and when the bookmark reaches the front of the queue, the system automatically dials the call-back number.

InContact fielded nearly 30,000 calls in January, typically a slow month for the call center, said Davenport. About 15,000 of those calls were answered by the call center, while 4,500 were directed to the third-party service. The remainder was handled by IVR.

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