The Provident Bank Realizes Dramatic Customer Service Improvements Using Echopass Advanced Call Center Service

By Vincent Deschamps, Echopass |  Enterprise Software, banking, call center

Background. For a banking institution founded nearly 170 years ago, The Provident Bank of New Jersey is already modern in its approach to customer service. Its corporate slogan, “Hassle-free banking for busy people®,” summarizes its philosophy of removing obstacles and ensuring fast, accurate, and professional customer encounters.

The Provident Bank’s commitment to service excellence has made it a leader among financial institutions in the central New Jersey market. Yet, in 2005, the bank felt it could do even better, especially with regard to inbound customer calls. Much of its technology infrastructure was notably modern, particularly the core banking applications from Fidelity National Information Services. However, the call center software system offered limited opportunities for improvement or flexibility. This issue needed to be resolved, as the bank's call center handles over 175,000 customer interactions per month. In 2005, Provident turned to Echopass, a top provider of hosted, on-demand contact center solutions. The always on Echopass service has now been in place for Provident over three years, providing a number of benefits that simultaneously improve agent effectiveness and customer service.

Need for Professional Response. “The goal of most contact centers is to be as efficient as possible by giving agents the tools they need and reducing the number of key strokes needed to satisfy the call — thus improving the overall call handling time. For us as a bank, basic security questions are required at the onset of the call, but the agents still had to navigate through several screens to validate the information provided by the customer. We needed to handle calls more efficiently,” states Jack Novielli, senior vice president of The Provident Bank and founder and chair of the Fidelity Charter Users Group.

Another need for Provident was a more powerful routing capability so that calls were sent to the agent with the best skills to handle the customer's request. While The Provident Bank's old Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology was first-rate, its inflexible hardware-based call center didn't have the routing capability to direct callers to the best skilled agent or department. On occasion, customers were greeted by agents who didn't have the right expertise or experience, raising the likelihood that issues wouldn't be resolved on the first call.

“We try to focus on a positive customer experience by answering the majority of the requests on the first call,” Novielli notes. “Our contact center handles 175,000 customer contacts every month — each of which should be a positive experience. Echopass has continued to help us cost-effectively reach our industry-leading excellence goals.”

Becoming Flexible with Echopass. “Using on-demand services makes sense for customers who need a call center because the software as a service (SaaS) model maximizes flexibility while eliminating the upfront risk,” says Vincent Deschamps, chief executive officer of Echopass Corporation. “With our service, the customer pays monthly for the services used based on the number of agents. This can be easily increased or decreased to fit business needs. Within the financial services industry where Echopass has numerous clients, we provide integrations to a wide range of other applications and technology partners – including Fidelity – and we manage the entire service end to end. This type of flexibility is impossible for customers to achieve with an on-premise, hardware-based call center.”

Novielli considers it a major plus that Echopass solutions are integrated with best of breed technologies, such as Genesys contact routing technology. “Genesys is well-known and well-respected in the industry,” he states. “This assures us that we have the reliability, flexibility and quality that we needed and continue to need.”

Back in 2005 when The Provident Bank made the decision to work with Echopass, the two companies carefully reviewed the bank’s call center data to assess call volumes and service requests. Based on the findings, Echopass developed a systems interface to the bank’s Fidelity applications and customized the home screen for The Provident Bank agents to instantly provide agents with the customer data and account information needed to answer the most frequently asked questions.

“The screen pop Echopass developed is one of the key contributors to our improved, hassle-free call interaction,” notes Novielli. “Echopass built a completely customized desktop for agents that contains all pertinent customer information. We continue to rely on their technology, and as soon as a call comes in, agents have 95 percent of the customer’s data at their fingertips which improved, and helps us maintain, the overall call handling and customer experience.”

Novielli also points to the sophisticated, Echopass skills-based call routing. At the core level, callers are provided with language options for agents with specific language skills. At the next level, calls are routed to the agent with the level of expertise appropriate for the request — personal vs. business accounts, for example, or sales vs. service.

Easy Roll-Out. Provident considered easy customization and integration to be high priorities in a new system. Echopass delivered on both counts, and the initial implementation and subsequent additions of Echopass features and capabilities over the course of the relationship have more than met expectations.

“Overall, working with Echopass has been a very, very positive experience,” says Novielli. “I've been through many cutovers and implementations, and the ones we’ve done with Echopass have definitely been the least complicated. We continue to be impressed with Echopass’ ability to write code in a relatively short period of time, and with their Professional Services team’s ability to implement new things quickly.”

First-Call Resolution Peaks, Sustains, and Drives Results. Almost immediately after the initial Echopass contract was signed and the new service was implemented in 2005, the bank began seeing positive contact center service results, which it continues to enjoy today.

“Echopass accesses The Provident Bank data. Once Echopass performs that data dip, they instantly provide qualified agents with a screen pop that gives agents the data they need to communicate effectively with our customers. By putting that information on the screen and routing to the most qualified agent, our first call resolution peaked at 95 percent. We’ve maintained that level since the Echopass service went live,” Novielli reports. Agents are able to greet each caller by name, and with the data right in front of them — as opposed to toggling through multiple screens and systems — service personnel are able to address customer issues almost immediately.

The combination of improved call handling, new segmentation routing that ensures best-customer service capability with the best skilled agent, and screen pops has produced sustained results for The Provident Bank. Ninety percent of the bank's call volume is answered within the first 20 seconds — high by any industry measure. Call duration has been reduced by 40 percent, to an average of 2.5 minutes. The average customer wait time has been cut in half, to 12 seconds. Abandoned calls have been minimized to 2.84 percent — compared with the industry average of 5 percent.

In addition, due to the improved efficiencies of the call center personnel, Provident avoided adding 10 part time call center agents that would have been required without the switch from the ACD environment to Echopass.

Looking Ahead. In search of further improvements, the bank is investigating web chat, email, and automated customer survey services from Echopass. Tighter integration with the bank’s Fidelity applications is also in the works. The enhanced Fidelity integration will further streamline agent performance and enhance customer service by giving call center agents direct access to the Fidelity systems, eliminating keystrokes and expediting response times.

“Our core financial accounts have increased, and there is a stronger link between the contact center and backend operations,” says Marcia Blunt, vice president of Remote Banking for The Provident Bank. “Since we’ve deployed the Echopass Call Center Service, my agents are happier with the information and efficiency of the system, we have improved sales results, and satisfied customers with the added attention and higher value they receive — and in the banking industry, those are improvements that translate directly to the bottom line.”

At a Glance: The Provident Bank

Challenge:
Improve customer service by creating and maintaining a state-of-the-art customer contact center environment for the regional bank

Solution:
Echopass Advanced Call Center On-Demand to replace the existing on-premise ACD hardware

Benefits:
-Sustained improvements over three-year period
-Higher customer satisfaction metrics — customer calls are answered faster and completed in less time
-Inbound calls are directed to agents with the best skills to handle the customer’s needs
-Customer information appears on agent screen at call answer reducing the up-front questions to the customer
-Flexibility to fit the business needs; customers can choose live agent or self service
-Solution and enhancements implemented very quickly
-Initial Echopass services were live in less than 90 days
-Fast and easy integration with existing enterprise technologies
-Zero capital expense
-Flexible for growth — scalable service allows agents to be added or reduced based on business requirements
-Lower operating expense for the bank

Results:
-First-call resolution peaked at 95%
-40% reduction in customer call duration, to 2.5 minutes
-90% of all inbound calls answered within first 20 seconds
-Customer wait time cut in half, to 12 seconds
-Abandoned calls decreased significantly, to 2.84%

Technology Partners:
Genesys and Sprint

Learn more about Echopass at www.echopass.com.

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