Banking customers have strong opinions about telephone systems. In a survey sent to customers of Union Bank in Kansas City, Missouri, respondents overwhelmingly wanted more of their calls answered by a person, rather than voicemail. They complained about being bounced from one person to the next, and they really disliked auto attendants.

“We looked very closely at all of the responses we got and realized that an overwhelming number of the preferences by customers were for more personalized customer service,” said Lisa Dawson, executive vice president with Union Bank. “Our bank was built on excellent customer service and we still strive to fulfill that mission. We took these responses to heart and immediately began to search for a better telephone system.”

Bay Federal Credit Union had a similar reaction when it realized that its antiquated phone system was hurting business. Simply put, the phone system had become “a barrier to our effort to improve member service,” said Blaine Pack, Chief Technology Officer for Bay Federal Credit Union. There were no direct-inward-dial numbers, and calls made to a branch could not be transferred directly to the extensions of specialists located at other sites. Members had to wait as the staff searched for the right connection, and calls were sometimes dropped or misdirected.

Pack and Dawson’s search for a new phone system that makes customers and members happy instead of frustrated ended with ShoreTel. At Bay Federal, members and employees now have a better interface and the loan-making and loan collection process is much more streamlined. Members who are trying to reach a specific person no longer get bounced around the system or put on hold, and staff time isn’t tied up with efforts to direct and connect calls.

For these financial services firms and many others, ShoreTel’s brilliantly simple business phone system is exactly what customers want from their banks and credit unions.

Consistent, Expert Service at Every Location

Auto attendant loops that require customers to punch in a series of responses are becoming a distant memory for the members and customers. Using ShoreTel’s business phone system, incoming calls are directly routed to an expert or a group of qualified experts. Union Bank has established three workgroups—one for retail banking customer service, one for loan operations and a third for the IT department’s help desk. When the different types of inquiry calls come in to the bank, they are consolidated to one number, and the calls are routed to the next available call center staff member, regardless of where that staff member is located. Customers get the answers they seek much more quickly.

“ShoreTel Workgroups allow our call centers to be run from different locations so we can tap expertise from anywhere,” said Dawson. “Staff members can log into the call center during busy times and help take customer service calls. Each workgroup can be set up however each supervisor wants it to be set up and supervisors can monitor calls. It’s also very flexible so we can have individuals log in and out of any workgroup as necessary. All of this contributes to our ability to provide excellent customer service.”

At OneUnited, the nation’s largest African American-owned bank, workgroups give the smaller bank a big advantage in customer service. The bank is gaining a stellar reputation for personalized community banking services that set it apart from bigger financial institutions. The approach has led to OneUnited financing more than $100 million in loans during the past two years.

OneUnited has two offices (including its headquarters) in Boston, two in Miami, and eight in the greater Los Angeles area, and the bank’s management wanted a unified phone system that would make all the bank’s resources appear local and more personal to the retail customer. The ShoreTel system’s self-service call handling and collaboration features extend the resources of the local staff while giving customers personal service. Branch personnel can confer with experts residing in other branches or at headquarters at any time. This easy access brings corporate resources closer to customers and provides a better customer experience.

“Every bank needs to handle the flow of calls through its branches more efficiently, and ShoreTel helps us do that,” said Jim Barry, CTO at OneUnited.

A Step Up in Service

Having a feature-rich IP phone system goes a long way toward changing customer perceptions. At Bay Federal, member complaints have dropped from a constant we-hate-the-phone-system litany to zero. Respondents to the Union Bank survey have changed their negative comments to positive feedback. “With ShoreTel in place, our customers are always complimenting us on our customer service, commenting that they are happy to reach a live human being,” said Dawson.

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