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Deena Amato-McCoy
Deena Amato-McCoy
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Mechanics Bank Tunes Its Call Center

Mechanics Bank has increased its call volume to between 800 and 1,000 calls daily, reduced its abandoned call rate, and lowered customer wait time to one minute or less using an agent productivity suite.

When an increase in volume led Mechanics Bank to triple the size of its call center, the institution found itself in need of a reporting tool to measure productivity and call efficiency.

The call center, begun by the Richmond, Calif.-based institution as a four-person operation nearly 20 years ago, had by 1998 grown to 10-12 agents. Staffed by temps or, at times, branch associates, the center handles calls seven days a week on its toll-free line.

But while there's no shortage of call center productivity solutions, the trick was finding one that's affordable. "We wanted to work with a company that could offer a system that could scale as we grew, and we had a hard time finding a company that could work with less than a 50- to 100-agent center," said Peggy Wanlass, technical systems officer for Mechanics Bank's call center, located at the $2 billion bank's processing facility in Hercules, Calif.

Mechanics Bank found the answer in Telecorp Products, a Walled Lake, Mich.-based software firm, which gears its solution around the call center manager, eschewing "bells and whistles that are not necessary to manage a call center," said Daniel Pilon, marketing specialist at Telecorp.

Since 1998, when it installed Telecorp's call center management suite, Centree Solutions, Mechanics Bank has increased its call volume to between 800 and 1,000 calls daily, reduced its abandoned call rate, and lowered customer wait time to one minute or less.

Beyond a yearly maintenance fee of $3,500, the only other cost incurred by Mechanics was a $500 fee for a readerboard, which provides a real-time view of agents and calls logged on to the system. The system paid itself back within two years.

"Without a previous tracking system, we had no means of recording efforts and customer calls, so the biggest value for us is having specific agent statistics and how call volume is handled," Wanlass said.

Begun in 1984, the call center was rudimentary at first. It ran on a DOS-based processing system and only received calls Monday through Friday. For even simple inquiries like account balances and check clearing, the center would routinely transfer calls to the customer's branch.

Mechanics Bank also struggled with management of its agents' work and productivity. "We didn't have a management solution installed," said Wanlass. "We didn't have means of tracking usage or customer calls. Instead, our agents were making their own workload score cards and marking their progress. They were on their honor."

That's all changed now. The first Telecorp module, Total E-Call, which resides on supervisors' PCs, provides real-time statistics about calls in progress, those in queue and hold times.

A second module, Rapid E-Port, is a historical call status tool that documents and reports all agent and call data. Every 30 minutes, Rapid E-Port gathers call statistics and transmits them to a database, from which reports get created.

"All agent logging information is stored in a SQL database," explained Pilon. "Banks extract the data to analyze trends, see how call volume has grown, which agents field the most calls, and so on."

Mechanics Bank installed the application on two PC-based workstations at the call center. The first is connected to the bank's PBX, or private branch exchange, which switches calls and allows users to share a certain number of external phone lines.

A PBX saves the cost of requiring a line for each user to the telephone company's central office.

On the second workstation, typically the supervisor's, E-Call monitors all agents' workload in real-time. "It analyzes whether the call is business, and the agent workload compared to the call volume," Wanlass said.

Next year, the bank plans to add the suite's E-Play module to record calls for training purposes within the call center and the bank's collections division.

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