Branch In Germany Used To Serve Callers From The U.S.

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Service Center CU is leveraging its international locations to provide its members with access to live help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Most credit unions with 24/7 call centers must rely on outsourcing to provide this kind of round-the-clock access to a live human being, and while SCCU is contracting with Digital Dialogue to cover a few hours each day, the vast majority of the time calls coming in will be handled in house.

The $885-million credit union is able to do this because it has a branch in Germany serving overseas military members.

"Starting in February, we will have someone in our Rochester, N.H., contact center until 10 p.m. Then our office in Germany opens at 8 a.m. local time, which is 2 a.m. here, so they pick up the calls then," explained Nancy Layton of SCCU. "That leaves just four hours that we have to contract out to Digital Dialogue."

Service Center CU started out life as a military credit union, serving a base in Portsmouth, N.H. "It was one of the first bases that was closed in the early 90s," Layton recalled, explaining that following the base closure, the CU converted to a state charter and added every county but one in New Hampshire and four towns in Massachusetts. "I guess it was in the 60s that we had the opportunity to open a branch in Germany to serve our members overseas."

And now that overseas branch is making it possible for the credit union to offer better service to its members closer to home.

SCCU is in the process of hiring people for that second shift which will come in at 3 p.m. and work until 10 p.m., but for now, the last person goes home at 6 p.m., which leaves eight hours that must be covered by the vendor.

Finding people interested in taking that second shift can be a challenge, and Service Center CU will be offering incentive pay to encourage people to consider working that shift.

"I've worked that shift before, and actually, I loved it," Layton related, but she conceded that the times aren't workable for everyone.

But it is for that very reason that offering 24/7 service is important-it can be difficult for members to transact their business during regular business hours. Indeed, after the CU started marketing to its membership about the 24-hour service, calls during the evening hours increased by 20%, Layton offered.

The contact center is at a facility that includes a branch operation, but the branch will continue to hold its regular business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The upgrade to the contact centers extends beyond the extended hours: members are able to apply for loans, open new accounts, transfer funds, request withdrawals and perform routine credit union business.

"We always look at ways to enhance member value," said Gordon Simmons, CEO. "Members can call the credit union at any time, day or night, seven days a week and talk to a 'live' credit union representative. Members conduct their credit union business when it's most convenient for them."

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