CU Reports On 1st 12 Months Of 24/7/365 Service

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BEL AIR, Md.-A year after debuting its 24/7 call center, Freedom FCU is making changes it hopes will both deliver better member service and cut costs.

In August 2009, the $233-million credit union began using an outsourced call center on a 24/7/365 basis, but that will be changing in October. Freedom FCU CEO Rose Ann Lambert said the CU will be move to a hybrid model where internal staff will handle calls during business hours and the call center will take over during off-hours.

"It's been a little mixed," Lambert said of member reaction to the current system. "It is a great convenience because it is 24/7/365 and we have members who live in other parts of the country and across the world. But we also have a robust array of services and we're finding, over time, that our members are better served in the business day. We'll have the ability when we are not here to flip a switch and it moves over to the call center. It's going to be the best of both worlds."

In the present system a team of two or three Freedom employees are available to deal with escalations, but Lambert said the model became too bottlenecked as call center operators were unable to deal with complex problems immediately leaving members occasionally frustrated with the speed of the CU's response. With mobile banking and online account opening set to debut in the near future such problems are likely to spike again.

"For each [product or service] that you change you have to write a script for the call center and those scripts are like writing a procedure book," Lambert explained, noting that the credit union has written more than 400 scripts for operators. With the new system employees will have more time to deal directly with members instead of writing scripts for the outsourced call center.

The hybrid system should save between $15,000-16,000 per month, Lambert said, and there will be no additional employee expenses, as the CU was already hiring new staff and re-organizing in preparation for a new branch opening. Lambert believes that using outsourced call centers can be great way to round out the member service experience during off-hours, but more intimate institutions should be wary of relying on them during the business day.

"If you have a very close-knit SEG and they are extremely accustomed to dealing with you personally that needs to be taken into consideration. If you are very large and you don't have that relationship it probably isn't going to matter quite so much," she said.

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