When a group of Six Sigma black belts at Huntington Bancshares (Columbus, Ohio; $30 billion in assets) examined teller utilization throughout their branch network, they discovered an opportunity for improvement. The highest number of customer complaints stemmed from long waiting times on Mondays, Fridays and days when Social Security checks were being cashed. Conversely, tellers were underutilized on other days.
The solution was a computerized staffing model to match the supply and demand for teller services. But in retail branch-based banking, the command-and-control model can only go so far. "The banking offices weren't going to use staffing models set centrally," said Brian Williams, senior vice president, Huntington Bancshares, speaking at the BAI Retail Delivery conference in Las Vegas.
The typical branch manager's response to staffing mandates from the top would be complaints such as, "They're not accurate," or "All you're trying to do is cut my staff," according to Williams. "If they don't feel they own it, eventually they'll sidestep the process," he said.
Huntington piloted workforce management software from Exametric (San Diego, Calif.) at 12 of its banking offices at the beginning of 2003. The Web-based client software allows branch managers to optimize the staffing at their own offices, and to see how the decisions they make have an impact on the bottom line. "The key was getting a Web-based tool," noted Williams.
The results have been encouraging. After the first year, Huntington realized an 11 percent reduction in teller salaries and benefit costs. At the same time, customer surveys indicated that service levels have improved.
Furthermore, the attrition rate was cut in half, as the tellers had been overworked during the peak times and bored during the non-peak times, related Williams. Now, idle time can be channeled into more productive activities. "If there's idle time, we want them using that time calling customers," he said.
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