The ROI of IVR

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Altura Credit Union took a seemingly small step, but ultimately a giant leap with its phone system early this year when it moved the "check my account balance" option to the top of the voice-response menu that is offered to members.

The $737-million Altura Credit Union now stands to save more than $250,000 this year thanks to the revamped menu and other new features of its interactive voice response (IVR) system, according to Tom Farquhar, vice president, Member Service Center.

The overhaul will do more than save on contact center costs, however; members are getting what they want as well, Farquhar said.

"We have incorporated the voice of the member, and from the cost-savings standpoint it helps us operate more efficiently," he said.

Evidently, members want to know their account balances. In fact, that's the main reason members call Altura, according to the CU's records. Altura's IVR now allows members to punch through directly from the main menu to get their account balances, said Farquhar.

Previously, members had to spend two or three minutes drilling down through the navigation to get to the account balance queue, said Farquhar. As a result, many members immediately chose to speak with a contact center agent instead.

Things have changed. IVR has reduced the number of account-balance calls to contact center agents by nearly one-third, to the tune of $12,000 in labor savings in February alone, Farquhar said. "It just makes sense for our agents to answer loan questions rather than reading off account balances," he added.

The $743-million CU has 40 agents handling 40,000 calls per month. This summer, the IVR will feature additional customizations for share transfers and Visa loans.

In addition to the IVR benefits, call routing will be enhanced. The system will instantly detect the member's collection status or open loan applications and re-route those calls to an appropriate queue.

"Between the redesigned IVR menu and Enhanced Routing, we're expecting to reduce overall call volume going to call center reps by 15%, which will have a tremendous impact on our operations," said Farquhar.

The shift in account-balance traffic has created a ripple effect on sales efforts, continued Farquhar. For example, because there are fewer members waiting to talk to agents, members who do need to talk to an agent are more quickly connected.

And when members are quickly connected to an agent, they're more willing to listen to sales pitches.

Indeed, Altura saw a 40% increase in cross-sales referrals one month after it redesigned the IVR menu, Farquhar said. "Our referrals had flat-lined. After members wait a long time on hold, they don't want to listen to a cross-sales offer. They just want to get off the phone."

Much of the credit goes to the flexibility of Altura's IVR platform, offered by Zeacom, a contact center software supplier of Irvine, Calif., said Farquhar.

"Typically, credit unions use canned IVR packages that are based on the vendor's general design," asserted Farquhar. "Zeacom allows us to design our IVR to match our member's needs."

CUJ Resources

For info on this story:

* Altura CU at www.alturacu.com

* Zeacom at www.zeacom.com

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