2020 has thrown us more curveballs than most of us ever thought could happen in a single year. While there have been many shocking events and changes to the world, the one that has had the largest and most long-term global impact is the COVID-19 pandemic. With businesses of all kinds shutting their doors to the public for months this year, companies and customers have had to find new ways and embrace alternative methods of communicating with each other.
Financial institutions were no exception, as doors closed to the public and members were impacted by layoffs, unemployment, loan payments, and trying to keep track of their accounts. Add to this lower than ever lending rates for most credit unions across the country, it seems like most departments have worked harder to be there for members than was ever thought possible.
With doors closed, members rely on the phone
With face-to-face interactions no longer being possible for a period, where were members to turn? Most of them turned straight to the phone, calling to check and see if the drive-thru was still open, obtaining help in gaining access to their account virtually, help tracking their accounts, and asking for special requests due to unexpected financial situations. Call centers have really had a chance to shine throughout these unexpected events, with the ability to help credit unions continue to be there for their members and stay safe all at the same time.
This rise in calls brought to light a new data set to be worked with: credit union phone support data. Why did members call during the pandemic, what was the impact on call volume, and are these members any different than the regulars who call on a weekly basis? Did the teller visitors switch to phone callers? As a data analyst, I thought of these and about 20 other questions I wanted to answer and get the privilege to study for most of the credit unions that participate in services with our CUSOs. I’ve found it’s pivotal to study this call data right now, before too much time has passed.
The numbers don’t lie
How much did the pandemic really impact call volume alone? For Xtend’s Contact Center, the impact on inbound volume as a 40% increase from the average monthly volume in April 2020 alone. This year has seen an average monthly increase of 50% when compared with volume in 2019 and is quickly rising with the approach of the holidays. Even with this slow monthly increase, no volume has come close to touching the 60,000(+) inbound calls taken in April.
If volume alone is not enough to encourage you to start looking at your phone support, changes in the reasons members called were obvious during the pandemic. Most of the time, the top 5 reasons members call fall under the following categories:
- Checking account balance
- Walking through transaction history
- Checking on ACH deposits
- Transferring funds
- Card inquiries
Instead, the top reasons members called during the early stages of the pandemic contained a little more variety. While checking balances and walking through transaction history remained within the top five reasons members called, the other top reasons they called contained combinations of the following:
- Online banking questions
- Password resets
- Lending inquiries
- Skip a Pay requests
Along with this, the sheer number of individual members calling also increased significantly for most credit unions. While there are regular callers that appear to contact the credit union on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, the increase included members who do not typically call the credit union to handle their finances. While it has not been studied here yet, it would be interesting to see if these non-typical callers were the same ones typically visiting the teller line prior to the pandemic.
Analyzing data prepares us for the future
It’s important to study this data to see if there are any otherwise missed opportunities to help members as a result of the pandemic, and to be more prepared should any other future events impact the entire country and cause massive shutdowns again. Do we need to staff differently? Should work from home call support become a new option for tellers to avoid layoffs and provide enough familiar support to members? Can an outbound or e-communications focused campaign at the start of a shutdown prevent these large increases in call volumes? These questions will not be answered without a closer look at the data for multiple credit unions and businesses. We need to analyze call support data so we can more wisely act now, and in the future.