Portman Building Society, the third largest UK building society, has extended the number of specialists available to handle customer calls by 50%, generated £3m of new business a month and improved customer service quality, following the installation of new contact centre software.
What it has done:
The Aspect Spectrum Convergence LAN Agent software delivers a call overflow system for Portman, allowing branch-based Mortgage Managers to log on and receive customer calls as if they were sitting in the company's Direct Mortgage contact centre. Remote workers can be added to the company's pool of Advisors without the need for additional dedicated hardware; and all remote workers need is a phone, a PC and a LAN/WAN connection. The Aspect software delivers all the benefits of centralised control, but without the need to centralise personnel. Routing decisions are made automatically by the Aspect technology based on where calls can be most efficiently handled.
Portman estimates that in peak months it is now routing as much as 9% of 'new business' calls to its branches to reduce call waiting times - and that it has written over £40m of new business since the system was first used in March 2005. While some of this business would have come to the company anyway, Gary Saddler, Associate Director, Portman Building Society, believes it would have been gained at the cost of reduced customer satisfaction.
"At a time when an increasing number of organisations are deciding to route all their inbound customer calls to centralised contact centres, we've decided to do the opposite" he explains. "While having a single point of management control is important, so too is having the flexibility to deploy remote workers as and when required. Spikes in call traffic can occur at any time - for example, when a product launch occurs or when a Portman financial product makes a Sunday newspaper 'Best Buy' list.
Predicting these peaks is virtually impossible and that makes accurate workforce planning problematic. While staffing up to meet exceptional (and often unanticipated) peaks in call traffic is extremely wasteful of resources and therefore unrealistic, so too is expecting customers to wait on the phone for long periods to be answered. Customers benefit from short wait times and consistent service and this, in turn, often leads to smoother customer interactions than if customers had been waiting in a queue to be answered. Our branches benefit financially too from writing important new mortgage business. It's a win-win situation."
The Portman Building Society's Mortgage Direct service was launched in January 2005 and advises on a wide range of mortgage products on both an 'advised' and 'non-advised' basis. In 2005, it handled approximately 100,000 calls directly related to new mortgage business.
The Portman Building Society has been the fastest growing top ten building society in the UK over the last five years. In the year to December 2005, total assets increased by 15% to £17.8bn while residential mortgage balances rose by 16% to £13.5 billion. Gary Saddler believes that the company's new contact handling facility has been an important factor behind this exceptional business growth.
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