Fast-growing South Carolina Bank and Trust ($2.4 billion in assets) used to have trouble staffing its contact center properly. Handling the call volume proved tough some days, while the center found itself overstaffed other days, according to SVP and contact center director Debby Pendleton-Smith.
The contact center's antiquated PBX switch meant that the bank lacked the proper interface to accurately measure call data, such as call times and duration, and prevented South Carolina Bank and Trust from utilizing workforce-optimization software, Pendleton-Smith explains. So she had to do her best with staff planning on spreadsheets, she relates. "There was no way to try to predict what calls would come in at any different time. So we just kept throwing people at the problem," Pendleton-Smith recalls.
"We were getting up to 1,400 calls a day, and the bank wanted to bring in three more contact center agents, which would have cost $100,000 a year," Pendleton-Smith continues. "I said that we could spend the money on that, or we could spend it on a forecasting system [and] do more with fewer [staff]."
The Columbia, S.C.-based bank took a big step toward solving the problem in early 2006 when it bought a Cisco (San Jose, Calif.) Voice Over IP phone system. "Once we got the Voice Over IP in, we could track the [call] data a lot better," Pendleton-Smith says. "But ... that was only part of the solution."
So Pendleton-Smith began researching workforce-optimization solutions. She says she was looking for the solution that could most efficiently shorten wait times, for example, and match staffers with particular knowledge areas to the right callers. Pendleton-Smith examined products from Atlanta-based GMT -- a company with which she had worked years earlier and whose technical support had impressed her -- as well as two other vendors she declines to name. She also talked with a number of fellow contact-center professionals about the pros and cons of each vendor's system.
Ultimately, Pendleton-Smith opted for the GMT solution because of the vendor's past performance, she says, and the bank purchased version 9.5 of the company's GMT Planet workforce-optimization software, along with a Dell (Round Rock, Texas) server on which to run the application. Implementation occurred in spring 2006, and the actual installation by GMT staff took just one day. Shortly after that, a GMT trainer came on-site for a couple of days to train Pendleton-Smith on the system; no one else needed training, she relates.
A Planet of Benefits
Now the bank uses the system to produce monthly work schedules for the 14 people who staff the contact center. Pendleton-Smith only has to input staff vacation requests; the system already has all the other data needed to determine staffing requirements. GMT Planet produces a scheduling forecast that breaks staffing needs down into 15-minute increments, and includes details such as the timing of employees' breaks and lunches.
The system also automatically generates reports on performance, such as the number of incoming calls at certain times and average call length. "The forecasting has been so close to perfect that I really trust it," Pendleton-Smith says.
Although daily call volume has risen steadily to roughly 2,000 calls, according to Pendleton-Smith, thanks to the GMT solution, she has not had to increase staff. In addition, the new setup reduced call-service time 77 percent, increased the contact-center rep occupancy rate 25 percent and reduced the rate of customers abandoning calls by 66 percent.
South Carolina Bank and Trust now is implementing the system at its branches for tellers. "Once we get the teller piece up and running and we are confident with that, we are looking at adding it for our financial services reps, and maybe implementing the back-office piece," Pendleton-Smith says.
Institution: South Carolina Bank and Trust (Columbia, S.C.)
Assets: $2.4 billion
Business Challenge: Staff contact center more efficiently to handle call volumes and improve service.
Solution: GMT Corp.'s (Atlanta) GMT Planet workforce-optimization software.