IIn overhauling its antiquated phone system, Washington State Employees Credit Union (WSECU) not only cut costs, it also improved customer service. The Olympia, Wash.-based credit union was saddled with a hodgepodge of phone systems, which were more than a decade old, at its 20 branches, according to Tony Hildesheim, WSECU's VP of IT. Each system had to be managed separately by the IT staff, and many branches didn't even have voice mail, Hildesheim reports. "On top of all that, there was no unified reporting, so we could not see what was happening," he says.
So in 2007 WSECU ($1.3 billion in assets) replaced its Avaya (Basking Ridge, N.J.) system at the credit union's headquarters with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based ShoreTel's Enterprise Contact Center multimedia IP-based software and ShoreWare Director, a centralized Web-based network management interface, and installed approximately 500 ShoreTel IP telephones across its branches. According to Hildesheim, the new setup has reduced system maintenance costs by $13,000 annually and eliminated the need for outsourced branch phone system support, such as adding lines when new employees joined the credit union, saving an additional $12,000 annually.
A Better Handle on Calls
Perhaps more important, the IP-based technology has enabled WSECU to cut customer call-handling time by three to five seconds. Since the credit union handles about 50,000 calls from members each month, Hildesheim says, "three seconds per call is a huge gain."
The decision to tap ShoreTel's technology goes back several years, when WSECU engaged a consultant to help it identify its core functional requirements and translate those needs into technical requirements. In 2006 it issued a request for proposal to five vendors: Avaya, ShoreTel, Cisco (San Jose, Calif.), Interactive Intelligence (Indianapolis) and 3Com (Marlborough, Mass.).
After narrowing the prospective vendors to three -- Avaya, ShoreTel and Cisco -- the credit union invited each to provide a demo of its solution. While all three providers quoted similar up-front costs, WSECU's selection committee, which included business managers from each area of the organization, felt that ShoreTel offered better support and functionality, Hildesheim recalls. For example, the WSECU team believed that ShoreTel's switch setup -- which equips each branch with its own switch -- provided better redundancy that would prevent an outage in the phone system, he says.
Before the credit union signed with ShoreTel in spring 2007, Hildesheim says, "We had a series of meetings to make sure that we understood the technology and what it could do." Implementation planning occurred in May 2007. WSECU worked with Kent, Wash.-based reseller TRI-TEC Communications to deploy the new IP phone system over a two-week period a month later.
"They set the [headquarters] system up in their lab, and then brought all the gear into our environment and set it up," Hildesheim relates. He adds that WSECU staffers hooked up the new system at two or three branches at a time, with branch staff members going through one-hour group training.
With the new system's reporting capabilities, "We said, 'Let's track how fast we answer the phone, and set up metrics,'" Hildesheim recalls. "People started setting better service thresholds." For instance, WSECU aimed to get its call-abandon rate down from 13 percent to less than 10 percent; it now averages 3 percent to 5 percent, Hildesheim says, noting, "Our members are much more satisfied." Further, while the credit union's IT staff used to answer 80 percent of internal-customer calls within 60 seconds, it now answers 95 percent of calls within 30 seconds.
Tweaks to the new system are in the works, such as adding a "screen pop" feature, Hildesheim adds. It will allow a WSECU employee, when a call comes in, to type in that customer's account number and instantly get his or her account details, rather than taking time to ask for them. "Once we implement that," Hildesheim says, "we will see another three- to five-second reduction in call-handle time."
Case Study Snapshot
Institution: Washington State Employees Credit Union (Olympia, Wash.).
Assets: $1.3 billion.
Business Challenge: Update phone system to improve efficiency and service.
Solution: ShoreWare Director and Enterprise Contact Center software from ShoreTel (Sunnyvale, Calif.).