With more than $3 billion in assets, 34 branches across Southern California and over 250,000 members, Wescom Credit Union is among the largest credit union cooperatives in the country. Making sure that each member’s needs are met is just one way Wescom sets itself apart. This is most evident in the credit union’s Member Service Center.
The Member Service Center is Wescom’s contact center operation. An estimated 130,000 calls and 10,000 e-mails are handled monthly by its 80 telephone service representatives. Training in communication and relationship-building techniques build critical competencies for delivering exceptional service—but it’s the center’s coaching program that ensures exceptional service is delivered in each and every member interaction.
“Wescom’s mission statement is ‘To exceed our members’ expectations in everything we do,’” said Nancy Allen, vice president, member services. “As a member-focused organization, we strive to deliver superb service, offer easy and convenient access to competitive products, serve as the first source for financial education and information, and be the primary provider of financial services to our members. Training has given our telephone service representatives the skills and knowledge to deliver on these promises. Coaching strengthens their skills and knowledge, and helps to sustain top performance throughout the Member Service Center.”
Coaching is a formalized program, not merely a process, at Wescom. Representatives are coached by their supervisors at least once a month, on an individual basis. Discussions are divided between two key areas: what the representative did well and ways to build on those behaviors, and what, if any, gaps in performance exist and opportunities to correct them. The tone of the sessions is always positive, with supervisors focusing more on behaviors rather than call-monitoring scores or other measurements.
However, what is done with the results of the individual sessions is what makes Wescom’s a best-practice coaching program. A quality assurance team assimilates the data and sends a summary e-mail to the entire Member Service Center staff. The e-mail ranks the unit’s overall strengths, as well as the opportunities for improvement. It also includes a list of resources and links to Web sites staff can turn to for additional help in addressing the areas for improvement. Following the e-mail, a member of the quality assurance team speaks at the center’s monthly supervisor and telephone service representative meetings to elaborate on the coaching results and the performance trends the team has noticed over time.
Since its inception approximately a year ago, the three-phased coaching program has gone over well with staff members. “The feedback we receive from our telephone service representatives on Wescom’s coaching program and the efforts of the quality assurance team is very positive,” Allen said. “In fact, some representatives have called members of our quality assurance team directly to ask, ‘How can I do this better?’ or ‘What would you do in this situation?’ That’s truly a testament to the success of our coaching program.”
That success has not gone unnoticed in other areas of Wescom Credit Union. A number of telephone service representatives have received promotions, while others have transferred to other parts of the organization. According to Allen, this kind of employee attrition is a good thing. “Our employees may be leaving the Member Service Center but they aren’t leaving Wescom,” she explained. “Other departments see how knowledgeable and well-trained our employees are, and they understand the structured environment we operate in. The training and coaching we implement is helping to build a more skilled and capable workforce, not just for the Member Service Center, but for all of Wescom.” Coaching will continue to be a prominent element of Wescom’s Member Service Center culture. It has raised both member and employee satisfaction and has helped to position Wescom as a leader in the financial services marketplace.
Member satisfaction surveys from consumer loan applicants in 2004 indicate an overall satisfaction score of 4.69 out of a possible 5. Interestingly, the survey includes members who were granted loans, as well as those who were turned down. Even with the loan turndowns, the Member Service Center was able to reach an impressive service level.
“When I came on board five years ago, the Member Service Center was a completely different operation,” Allen explained. “Now, our telephone service representatives are more knowledgeable, more comfortable interacting with our members and more empowered to handle a variety of transactions they weren’t prepared to handle before. Without coaching, we wouldn’t be where we are today, and we wouldn’t be poised for additional successes in the future.”
Mario Berard is president and CEO of Omega Performance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.