Making Credit Union Members and MSRs Happy

Happy MSRs make happy credit union members and drive improvement to the next level, but how do you get there?

Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal, a credit union with customer-centric orientation

Editor’s note: Although this article focuses mainly on credit union call centers, the points made here apply to call centers in companies across all industries.

As a call center consultant specializing in helping credit unions drive revenue and member satisfaction higher, I’ve read a lot of articles lately about the importance of making call center agents happy, that happy agents make happy customers. Scores of experts have written about scheduling flexibility and call center scheduling software, CRM solutions that bring innovative tools to the center that make it easier for agents to do their jobs, removing supervisory practices that cause social strain, and more. And while some of these articles have had some useful insights, many miss the point. In my view, the key is to focus on effectiveness versus efficiency, a customer-centric orientation, to focus on agent satisfaction from an empowerment point of view, and to implement intensive training and coaching initiatives based on a process for success in selling—and for living in general—that I call The Quality Conversation.

The Quality Conversation approach has two essential components: showing genuine interest in the member, and asking key questions to evoke an emotional response. It also involves a robust sales process that leads member service reps through an enthusiastic greeting, full discovery, solution, overcoming objections and an assumptive close.

Philadelphia-based Police and Fire Federal Credit Union’s member service center and mortgage loan department has used this approach—implemented through an intensive training and coaching program called Member Connect—to achieve dramatic growth in their offer rate, offer acceptance rate, loan growth, and conversions to primary relationships, all while getting strong employee buy-in, engagement and productivity.

With employee buy-in, engagement and productivity (and happiness) in mind, I agree with points made by Barney Beal. He quotes from Jim Davies, principal analyst with Gartner, Inc., in Stamford, Connecticut. Davies wrote a report on agent self-actualization. “We’re moving away from the times where the mantra was efficiency,” the article quoted Davies as saying. “Organizations are now thinking about customer satisfaction and the agent is a critical element. There’s a lot more focus on the agent, and there will be in the next few years.”


COMSTAR CU rebranded as Nymeo in April 2013.

Davies is right. For example, COMSTAR Federal Credit Union rebranded itself in April 2013 as Nymeo, touting the slogan “a new way to look at money” to position itself against what it calls the business-as-usual attitudes of other financial institutions. Its strategy includes considerable re-training of staff around redefining the representative as a “financial concierge” empowered to advise members about the best products and services for individual wants, interests, needs and motivations.

Here are some other great ideas I’ve seen for making call center agents in all industries happier in their jobs. All of these ideas, combined with a Quality Conversation approach, will drive stellar results:

Greg Levin, in an article on TELUS International Blog, suggests emphasizing customer-focused metrics over measures such as average handle time and calls per hour. Another of his ideas is to let agents serve or even lead committees and key task forces. Levin urges call centers to cultivate a learning culture backed with comprehensive new-hire training along with ongoing training and coaching with dynamic methods including e-learning, games, role-playing, on-the-floor coaching and peer mentoring.  Finally, he suggests tapping into agents’ individual skills or talents. Get an artistic agent to help with signs and slogans to reinforce the sales culture. If you have an agent with a unique area of expertise, appoint him or her as a subject matter expert who can help others. The point is, being creative and observant in making agents feel valued is part of what drives the team, the culture and the success.

CUs look to benefit from

A supervisor from this contact center coaches agents on the floor, as recommended by Flavio Martins.

Flavio Martins wrote in Productivity Plus that supervisors should “live by an example.  Your customer service employees pay attention to you, and taking an empathetic standpoint that portrays maturity and understanding will serve you well, as you’ll appear to them as somebody who has their best interests at heart.” This dovetails nicely with my view that supervisors should be out on the floor coaching their agents side-by-side 50 percent of the time (along with other coaching tactics), serving them as advocates and supporters, helping them set and achieve goals and holding them accountable for their commitments.

Finally, Ian Hunter suggested in International Customer Management Institute’s blog that “the analytics and monitoring make for a stronger team of call center agents. Top performance is recorded and recognized.” I agree completely. Keep score, recognize achievement often and create actionable systems such as performance development meetings and team huddles for doing so.

These kinds of measures, combined with a Quality Conversation approach, has driven fantastic results for scores of call centers across multiple industries. For examples, see this list of project snapshots and case studies.

For more information on focusing on your MSRs, mortgage specialists, agents and other team members in the most productive, profitable and customer-centric way, contact me at 678-548-1775 or for a free consultation.