The Response to COVID Call-Spikes
As we went into lockdown, pretty much every call center in the country was suddenly flooded with calls; there were no survivors. Insanely long wait times became the norm for many companies, particularly financial services like banks and credit unions.
A Deluge of Phone Calls
Railroad & Industrial Credit Union — one of the nation’s oldest financial institutions — was no different. Daily calls doubled and tripled during the first few weeks, and stayed high.
In response to lockdown measures, they’d shuttered all branches except their drive-thru locations, sent most of their staff home, and set up additional lines so branch staff could handle the inbound calls.
But it was by a small stroke of luck that allowed R&I Industrial Credit Union to keep their customers and agents happy — unlike many others — despite the deluge of phone calls and long wait times.
A Case of Good Timing
Just a couple of weeks before the nation went into lockdown, R&I Federal Credit Union launched a new feature to the phone IVR and website: Fonolo call-backs. So, when the phone lines started to jam up, their members had the option to receive a call-back instead of waiting on hold.
Despite being such a new feature, it was rapidly adopted by many callers — a lifesaver for many of their members. Their customers have already requested over 18,000 call-backs, and saved over 337,000 hours of hold time — that’s more than 234 days — in the 90 days after lockdown began!
Positive Feedback Across the Board
It’s always great when we see our product helping to alleviate real-life stress and pressure — it’s great to know that it works and helps people in a tough spot.
The positive feedback Railroad received has been overwhelming. Their members are delighted that they can request a call-back at a time of day that suits them.
Agents are happy because the members aren’t frustrated because they can request a call-back at a time they can actually take the call — instead of spending their whole lunch on hold and not getting through.
Lessons Learned from COVID Call Spikes
We can all take the recent crisis as a learning opportunity. We’d like to double-down on the learnings that VP of Operations at R&I, Anna Lampinen, mentioned:
- You can never be too prepared
- Act quickly and trust your instincts — have a plan but be prepared to tweak it
- Sometimes you need a stroke of luck
There wasn’t a great deal that could be done to prepare for lockdown, installing call-backs right before the crisis was incredibly lucky timing for R&I. There was an excuse to be unprepared before, but now that we’ve all lived through it, can we really be that ill-prepared again?
Short-term solution; long-term benefits.
R&I turned to call-backs because they knew that their regular call spikes were harming their brand. COVID has helped that become a differentiator for them in the very competitive financial space.
Obviously many immediate benefits in dealing with increased call volume at that point. These can spin out into longer-term improvements in a lot of your key metrics, like FCR, CSat, ESat, and Service Level. Because it’s priced on a usage basis, when volume subsides, they don’t have to worry about overpaying.
In the long-term, it’s all about reducing friction. The easier and faster a customer conversation is facilitated and resolved, the happier your customer will be — and the more they’ll spend — and the more people they’ll tell about your great service!