Maintaining Exceptional Service with CSI Call Center

Consumers National Bank serves Northeastern Ohio with the individualized service emblematic of a true community bank. It’s a local institution that knows its customers personally and with “regulars” who call in asking for bankers by name.

The institution has maintained high-efficiency rates and a satisfied clientele by staying on the cusp of technology and striving for consistent, personalized customer care. However, it has also faced its fair share of challenges, with staff seeing a surplus of customer requests after hours.

To boost its exceptional support while adhering to budgetary constraints, the institution turned to CSI Call Center, an outsourced customer service solution for CSI’s NuPoint customers. Now equipped with CSI experts to supplement their operations, the bank has improved its efficiency and strengthened its ability to serve without sacrificing the personal connections that set it apart.

A Culture of Local, Personalized Service at Consumers National Bank

Consumers National Bank (previously Minerva National Bank) was founded in Minerva, Ohio, in 1965 to provide community-based banking services and make a difference in its community. Although it has grown to 21 branches and counting, the institution’s philosophy remains unchanged.

The emphasis on customer-centricity and communities extends from the front line to the bank’s board of directors. Decision-making and service are almost exclusively local, and as the institution moves forward, it strives to deliver as much technology to customers as possible without sacrificing personal relationships.

Dezarae Conn, vice president of operations, believes that’s what brings most customers to the bank in the first place. She says, “Our frontline staff are amazing!  They can handle loans, deposit accounts, and commercial customers for cash management products and, of course, with face-to-face service, these are people who work and live in your community.”

The bank is itself a community of sorts, with staff members and customers recognizing each other’s faces and knowing each other by name. “Even though we are in several counties in Ohio,” says Conn, “it doesn’t feel that way when you walk into a bank, and it doesn’t feel that way when you call customer support.”

That culture of service is baked into the institution’s workforce as it nurtures its staff to grow into new roles. Conn, who herself started in the mail room, attributes investing in its people as a critical differentiator that ultimately leads to superior service and staff that are beloved in their communities. More to the point, it means anyone can and does jump in to help customers in need.

According to Conn, no one is responsible solely for service. “Even at the teller line, our tellers and branch staff can perform many types of service for the customer,” she says. “They’re not just there for withdrawals and deposits.” Despite being VP of operations, she’ll often pick up the phone when a customer needs her.

Establishing Many Channels to Engage

In its approach to customer service, Consumers National Bank offers a wide array of methods for customers to contact their representatives. Their operations team manages their call center, accessible by an 800 number service line. They also offer an electronic banking extension for their digital and debit card platforms. Their marketing team handles inquiries on their website, and digital banking questions are resolved by the same employees who answer the phone.

However, given the genuine relationships and rapport that Consumers National Bank has cultivated over the years, many customers choose to come into branches or call them directly. It’s not uncommon for customers to request bank representatives by name and regularly chat with them.

That deep connection with customers brings purpose and meaning to the job. But high call volumes remained a challenge, limiting the staff’s ability to serve everyone by the same standard. In particular, the team needed to spend far too much time reviewing and following up with voicemails from after hours and over the weekend.

“It became overwhelming to handle the backlog of calls every morning,” Conn said. Many of their mornings, especially Monday, were spent playing catchup. So, when CSI announced the launch of a new outsourced call center, the institution was eager to learn more.

Implementing CSI Call Center

To enhance bank operations, the bank called upon CSI Call Center to extend their services beyond business hours. This solution for CSI’s NuPoint Customers leverages CSI experts to answer customer service calls on an institution’s behalf, adhering to the institution’s established policies and branding. As CSI already intimately understands the industry and consumer needs, this solution is ideal for handling simple issues so existing bank staff can focus on more complex ones.

By investing in CSI Call Center, Consumers National Bank aimed to alleviate the amount of follow-up each morning and provide essential support for customers from closing at 5:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. each weeknight. This involved handling various tasks that clients would typically expect from their local bank representatives, including password unlocks, password resets and addressing inquiries related to account balances and unusual transactions.

Given its history of local service, this initial intention was met with some apprehension among employees. They had even anticipated pushback, as after-hours customers were no longer speaking to their familiar local representatives. However, Conn notes that those concerns proved unfounded, as the customers who ask for reps by name call during typical business hours anyway.

According to Conn, that additional support helped tremendously. CSI Call Center rapidly became a seamless extension of the bank itself. The addition was so successful that the Call Center’s hours of operation expanded to include Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., alleviating the strain on branch staff who previously had to handle calls alongside other responsibilities.

Conn says, “Frankly, not a lot of calls got answered on Saturday because it was difficult to juggle a drive-through brimming with people while trying to take  calls at the same time.” This new extension allowed the bank to maintain efficient service without needing to enlist automation or bring in new staff to work the weekend shift.

Real Service and Real Results

CSI Call Center managed approximately 500 monthly calls during its initial three months. Customer issues were rare but promptly addressed via email notifications. Additionally, it allowed bank operations employees to focus more on complex tasks, as the Call Center handled more straightforward inquiries. That’s no small thing to Conn, who “would go so far as to say it can reduce risk because you are removing the need for us to rush through something so we can answer the phone.”

In addition to eliminating the need for more staff or automated responses, CSI Call Center significantly reduced the workload for bank operators each morning. The decrease in the number of cases to handle was noticeable, and CSI Call Center quickly resolved other issues without requiring further action from the bank.

In other words, customers got the help they needed without added strain on Consumers National Bank’s staff. For those cases that required additional support, even veterans who had been handling the phones for decades found it convenient to refer requests in Consumer National Bank’s robust consumer relationship management (CRM) system and assign them to the appropriate branch or department.

“[Our representatives] ask almost every two weeks, ‘When are we going to get Call Center?’”

Dezarae Conn
Vice President of Operations, Consumers National Bank

Conn reflects positively on the significant difference: “We may have 10 to 15 cases in the morning, or we might have three. Call Center also creates interactions for everything they have handled that we don’t need to do anything about. We can trust our representatives to take care of those cases to the point where we don’t even need to look at them. And I know it’s well over 10-15 every day, probably double or triple what we put in our workflow.”

She attributes Call Center’s success to CSI’s representatives’ professionalism, composure and effectiveness, as well as their commitment to consistently deliver exceptional customer service. According to her, their ability to manage challenging situations and maintain a friendly, personable demeanor has been instrumental in ensuring customer and bank satisfaction.

From Skeptics to Advocates

Given Call Center’s success on weeknights and weekends, Consumers National Bank is considering whether to grow its role further. Conn says, “It’s been so successful in alleviating call volume that we have been speaking about expanding it to being an overflow agent during the weekdays.” She also notes how much her institution values the ability to add hours incrementally per its needs.

She and her team have shared their procedures and recommendations with other banks considering the implementation of CSI Call Center. They emphasize the importance of aligning Call Center operations with the bank’s overall customer service goals, highlighting the minimal cost and potential risk reduction associated with the initiative.

In a genuine turnaround from employees’ initial skepticism about outsourcing service, representatives who handle the most call volume for digital banking are a driving force behind expanding its use. According to Conn, “They ask almost every two weeks, ‘When are we going to get Call Center?’” If anything, the bank’s ability to provide personalized, community-centric service has only improved.

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