I recently sat down with Eddie, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Forcht Group, of Kentucky Forcht Bank, in Lexington Kentucky. For the past six years,Eddie has been overseeing the development and direction of the bank’s Contact Center. Here is a transcript of that interview, with great insights regarding video in the Call Center:
Colin: So Eddie, perhaps we can start with you sharing the journey that Forcht Bank Contact Center has undergone over the past 5 or 6 years?
Eddie: Well, our internal discussions began in 2011, when we realized that a Contact Center wasn’t a luxury, but essential to our success; so that is when we brought in Taylor Reach.
Colin: And we appreciated that.
Eddie: The Call Center evolved from solely inbound, to inbound and outbound activities. Today we have 12 agents in the Contact Center and an additional seven staff in our new ‘On-Demand’, banking center.
Colin:That’s great. What were the triggers that caused you to look at Interactive Teller Machines (ITM’s), video and create your On-Demand Contact Center?
Eddie: We saw two reasons to implement the on-demand center. The first was the opportunity to create a competitive advantage, by extending our hours from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, to 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM Monday through Saturday. We want to be “Lexington’s Most Convenient Bank”. The second reason was to gain efficiency by employing ITM’s – more commonly referred to as video tellers. Research told us that 1 video teller can replace 2 staff in the branch, during peak demand times and up to 4 staff in slow periods. Our results bore out these types of efficiencies.
Colin: Wow, 100% improvement in productivity, that’s amazing. ITMs. Video Tellers, that sounds very cool. How did you go about finding a partner to help you implement ITM’s and video in the Call Center?
Eddie: We worked with out of Atlanta. They are the leader in the space; others are still playing catch-up. NCR was recommended by everyone we spoke with. We also spent time and visited Salem Bank in Indianapolis, which is one of the first banks to implement ITM’s – it was a big help.
Colin: How common are ITM’s in the retail banking space?
Eddie: Most technology innovations tend to start on the East or West coast and move towards the center of the country. But we adopted this technology early. It is becoming common here in Kentucky. Just recently, another local credit union has announced their plans to implement ITM’s.
Colin: What has been the customer reaction to the ITM’s?
Eddie: They love it. The extended hours are appreciated. We helped customers with the adoption process. For the first two weeks after we opened an ITM drive-thru, we had staff stand by to show the customers how to use the tool. For most customers ITM’s allow them to do everything they wish. ITM’s can complete 95% of the tasks and transactions that a teller can do in the branch; deposits, withdrawals, etc.
Colin: So essentially, customers can do more, than they would using ATM’s, and they still get a face-to-face interaction over video. How did you recruit and select staff to be the video tellers? This isn’t quite the same is hiring agents for the Contact Center.
Eddie: You are correct, it’s not the same. You need to get the right type of person for on-demand – someone with a great attitude and friendly personality. As this was a video position, we did our interviews over Skype; we were looking for people that could convey ‘customer love’, and who possessed all of the skills we need in the Contact Center but additionally, we looked for those who also made eye contact and looked engaged. We found some great people.
Colin: It sounds like more effort has to go into your recruiting process for these agents. How has the attrition or turnover been since you launched?
Eddie: Turnover takes place -it is an inevitable, fact of life. Our turnover is well below the national average and the turnover in our on-demand center is lower than in our traditional Contact Center. I think that is due, in part, to the more personal relationship that on-demand agents have with our customers.
Colin: How supportive was senior management in establishing the on-demand center and introducing video in your center?
Eddie:Very supportive. The owner is a supporter of technology, he feels we need to be on the leading edge. Salem Bank was bleeding edge. Everyone (at Forcht Bank) felt we needed to extend our hours of operation and we needed to improve customer convenience.
Colin: Support for senior leadership is essential for such an initiative and it’s great that you received that support. Is there anything that you know now, that you wished you had known before you began this initiative?
Eddie: In hindsight, we would have rolled out faster, so that we could have marketed this service enhancement, bank-wide.
Colin: That’s great. What advice would you give to anyone else who is looking to implement video in their Contact Center?
Eddie: Banks tend to be conservative, but if you want to thrive and survive you need to leverage leading-edge technologies. Today, it’s all about channel convenience. Video tellers in that regard are just like mobile; customers like convenience and to have options. We tested and proved this with our own research and focus groups.
Colin: Too true. Customers have all kinds of choices when they bank -the more choices which are offered, and the more convenient those choices are, the better this is for the customer and ultimately, for the bank that is offering those options. What type of changes did you need to make to accommodate video tellers and ITMs in the center?
Eddie: First, we had to change our drive-thrus. ITM’s are wider than ATM’s, so we had to convert 3 lanes into 2 lanes in some locations, in addition to replacing the pad. In the Contact Center, we needed to add a backdrop with the bank logo; we improved the lighting so that it looked professional and so the agents didn’t look washed-out or like ghosts.
Colin: Yes, I can understand that a professional image needs to be conveyed and that proper lighting is an essential ingredient of that professional image to be conveyed. So Eddie, one last question. Can you comment on the expense related to this initiative?
Eddie: Expense is a hard challenge. The average cost of these units is tens of thousands of dollars and can be almost double what the cost of an ATM is. But we, like other banks have older ATM’s that need to be replaced, so this additional costs had to translate into increased value and they certainly have.
Colin: Yes, the economics have to work for any technology to be adopted and there can be great marketing value to being an early adopter. Eddie, thank you so much for joining me today, sharing your experience regarding your On-Demand Contact Center and introducing ITM’s and video in you Contact Center.
Please join the conversation and share your thoughts and perspectives on video in the Call/Contact Center, in the comment section below.