CUNA Mutual To Pilot 'Reinvention' Of Customer Service

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CUNA Mutual Group is looking to "reinvent" its customer service operations as part of its overall effort to transform the company.

To that end, the firm is creating a Customer Operations Pilot, expected to be up and running by the end of the year, that will act as a laboratory from which CUNA Mutual can experiment with and learn from new approaches to customer service.

"Significant advances have been made in how companies provide customer service," said CEO Jeff Post. "Our goal is to apply those best practices at CUNA Mutual and combine those practices with our superior knowledge of the credit union marketplace so we can create a level of customer service that will exceed the expectations of our credit union customers and their members."

Everything from consolidation of its 30 contact centers scattered across the country, to new technology and workflow issues will be examined.

"One of the things we'll look at, for example, is workforce flexibility," said CUNA Mutual's Jim Bucheim. "What kind of service model do we need to have in place? Does it need to be 24/7? We have some capabilities to understand when we get the majority of phone calls and then look at whether we could adjust the schedule to really respond to the demands of our credit union customers. Technology is another one. Can we put more information into the hands of our customer service representatives? The pilot allows us to look at these things and make sure they work exceptionally well before rolling them out to the rest of the company."

CUNA Mutual is working with a pair of consultants to help map out a business design model and evaluate where to site the pilot. Those analyses are already ongoing, but the company is not yet sure if it will make more sense to operate the pilot out of an existing location or to build something new. One thing CUNA Mutual won't do is wait for results.

"Not only will we not wait for the pilot to be over to start applying what we learn from it, but we also are not waiting for the pilot to start making improvements to our customer service operations," Bucheim observed, noting the company has already made strides in quality monitoring and in dealing with claims in a timely fashion. "What has distinguished CUNA Mutual Group in the past is that there is a true belief in serving credit unions, that credit unions are different. We want to make sure that value and that strength carries over to the entire service area."

Among changes already implemented:

* Restructuring many internal services-changes CUNA Mutual says will produce $14 million in annual expense savings without affecting service.

* Enhancing investment practices and portfolios to produce $25 million in net investment income improvement over 2005-without changing the company's investment risk profile.

"The reason we are doing this is we have to," CMG's Rick Uhlmann offered. "We are competing in a global marketplace, and we must have best of breed products and services. We are creating a better experience, better products and better service for our customers."

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