Summit Credit Union
BY Andrew Faust
ï¿½In the technology arena, when you have to focus on customers instead of
the infrastructure, it changes how you think about things,ï¿½ says Drew
Lawrence, Director of Information Technology (IT) at Summit. ï¿½If you do
initiatives for technology reasons, you are failing.ï¿½
Lawrence joined State Capitol Credit Union, based in Madison, Wisconsin in
1998. In early 2001, Summit was formed out of a merger between State Capitol
and Commonwealth Credit Unions. Among other things to focus on with the
merger, he had to unsnarl a phone environment that included old PBXs, key
systems, and handsets from a variety of vendors and suppliers; an abundance
of POTS and Centrex lines; a mixed voice and network topology; and a file
drawer full of expensive service contracts.
ï¿½At one point I had 38 different phone bills on my desk for a single month,ï¿½
Lawrence recalls. The majority of administrative tasks relating to their
phones were outsourced, and service was often slow and expensive.
Approaching the phone situation as a customer-service problem, Lawrence and
his team were looking for a voice solution that would make it easier for
credit union employees to help credit union members. Some necessary
ï¿½ A single multi-site phone system for all 10 branches, which would also
provide for growth;
ï¿½ Remote management of equipment at any branch;
ï¿½ A standardized four-digit dialing across all locations;
ï¿½ An integrated central system to best support their advanced call center;
ï¿½ Toll bypass and other cost benefits.
In other words, Summit was looking for VoIP. The Summit IT group had done
some research of VoIP technology previously and quickly came up with a short
list of candidates: legacy voice vendor Nortel Networks, network vendor
Cisco Systems, and VoIP specialist Shoreline Communications.
Nortel Networks offered up an IP-enabled Meridian switch, but it would still
require administration and support by a local teleconnect, with all the
associated delays and costs. And though Summit is a Cisco network shop,
Ciscoï¿½s VoIP system would require major restructuring of the credit unionï¿½s
data network, was quite hardware intensive, and difficult to manage.
After checking customer references in the financial services arena, Summit
went with Shoreline. The data infrastructure ï¿½ a mixture of 64K ISDN lines
and frame relay ï¿½ was changed to a star-configured T1 network, and the VoIP
migration began in mid 2002.
Call Center Integration Enhances Customer Service
Good call center capability is a must for such a customer-focused business,
and Summit has always been willing to push the technological envelope a bit.
Five years ago, the credit union had a call center CTI (computer telephony
integration) system that integrated voice, e-mail, and Web chat, providing
members with alternative methods of contact. However, the fast-paced growth
of the credit union left behind both a legacy voice network and CTI system,
which needed restructuring and change.
ï¿½The integration of the Shoreline phone system with our Call Center was a
huge benefit,ï¿½ Lawrence says. ï¿½While Summit already had the ability to
connect callers from their 800 and local numbers to the call center, now
that integration could be extended with the auto-attendant at each branch.
With Shoreline each branch can have a custom auto-attendant to suit local
callers and still redirect calls back to the central call center to handle
certain requests. Now Summit can give branch callers a local touch and still
provide an enterprise call center when needed.ï¿½
The auto-attendant choices link to queues that are set up for each physical
site, and for various workgroups that may span multiple locations. For
example, if a member calls in and chooses the mortgage option from the
auto-attendant, the call is automatically routed to mortgage experts in the
appropriate branch or department.
ï¿½Callers get to the right person a lot quicker,ï¿½ says Lawrence. ï¿½And we have
Shoreline configured to act as a backup if the call center CTI system goes
down.ï¿½ Basic call distribution and queuing capabilities built into
Shorelineï¿½s product automatically step in to provide uninterrupted service
to customers should Summitï¿½s advanced Call Center have a problem.
Increased Productivity Maximizes Resources
All Summit employees are now on the same phone and voicemail system, with
four-digit and dial-by-name dialing as well as message forwarding across all
locations. A lot of people were leery of the using a desktop graphical
interface at first, but they found it easy to use and provided so many new
benefits that most were quickly converted.
ï¿½Some staff are like kids at first when they get their hands on this
software,ï¿½ Lawrence says. ï¿½They love the dial-by-name capabilities, start
building contact lists, integrate it with Microsoft Outlook, and find all
sorts of ways to use Shoreline to its fullest capabilities for them.ï¿½
Shoreline has also helped greatly for those offices that may use a
receptionist. ï¿½Our Sun Prairie office is the former Commonwealth credit
union headquarters, and the receptionist was using a lot of old equipment
with flashing lights. When we took all that away, she was skeptical, to say
the least. But after a week, she was delighted with the Shoreline interface
through her PC and wouldnï¿½t go back to the old equipment for anything.ï¿½
The receptionist uses Shorelineï¿½s presence intelligence and Extension
Monitor to check the status of people before she transfers calls to them.
Consequently, fewer members calling in end up getting bounced from extension
to extension and leaving multiple voicemail messages. Members now get to a
live person most of the time.
Summit also have lenders and other staff which utilize different offices and
branches. ï¿½One of the strongest features of the system for our credit union
is Shorelineï¿½s Any Phone feature,ï¿½ states Lawrence. With Any Phone, an
employee can simply log into any telephone in the system and bring their
entire phone profile with them to any location. ï¿½We have float staff and
branch employees who typically work at different locations. Now with Any
Phone, callers simply dial the extension or spell the name of the Summit
staff their trying to reach, and the calls are intelligently routed to them.
No more trying to remember where someone is, or wasting time trying to track
Streamlined Operations Produce Rapid Return
Lawrence and his team havenï¿½t done a detailed ROI study yet, but they expect
to see savings in excess of $200,000 over five years, from such advantages
as toll-bypass, least cost routing, decrease in monthly service calls, etc.
Quantifiable savings include the elimination of Centrex lines and the
maintenance contracts with local teleconnects, plus the benefits of toll
bypass. Additionally, the initial investment in Shoreline equipment was
significantly lower than the alternative VoIP solutions they evaluated. And
all this runs over Summitï¿½s data network, so there is no more need for
separate voice circuits.
Shorelineï¿½s intuitive management interface makes it easy for the IT staff to
set up least-cost routing so that long-distance calls to one of Summitï¿½s
branches or surrounding local dialing radius automatically get sent over the
private T1 network, bypassing the carrier toll networks.
Similarly, bringing up Shoreline at a new location doesnï¿½t involve a whole
lot more than plugging in a ShoreGear switch and letting it join its peers.
Moves, adds, and changes take minutes instead of days, because they can be
performed mostly by Lawrenceï¿½s staff from anywhere via Shorelineï¿½s
The 12-person IT department is one of the heaviest users of Shorelineï¿½s
built-in three-way conferencing, and the auto-attendant they are
implementing for the IT help desk will direct members to the staff with the
appropriate skills. To accommodate after-hour calls, the IT cell phones will
be integrated with the Shoreline system so it can page them directly.
The IT staff also found the Outlook integration and unified messaging very
convenient. For example, when Summitï¿½s e-mail or other business critical
server is down for any reason, the user community can be informed of the
problems via a voicemail broadcast using Shoreline.
ï¿½Instead of hiding behind the technology, IT people are involving the other
employees and letting them know what is going on,ï¿½ Lawrence says. ï¿½There is
a greater awareness of IT projects and what we are doing, and people on both
sides are more productive.ï¿½
ï¿½We in the IT department view Summitï¿½s staff as our internal customers, and
we use Shorelineï¿½s capabilities to also help better serve the members ï¿½ our
external customers. Making sure Shoreline met our customers needs first and
foremost was essential, and were thrilled with the results and how weï¿½ve
been able to make that happen,ï¿½ sums up Lawrence.
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Throughout a 26-year career in the financial services industry, Summit
Credit Union CEO Andrew Faust has stuck to a simple but powerful philosophy:
Provide legendary customer service, which has grown to focus on providing
trusted financial advice. Everything he does has a customer focus, and he
expects the same of his staff.
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