managing director, operations, Canadian Western Trust

Customer queries bounced back and forth like ping-pong balls, calls were lost and employees switched between client service and business process roles.

A year ago, Canadian Western Trust, a small Vancouver-based financial institution decided this was not the way to run its business. We were able to boost performance and service levels without reducing staff.Cathy Phillips>Text

“Everyone in our staff was taking customer calls and giving them advice or solving their problems. At the same time they were doing their assigned tasks,” said Cathy Phillips, the firm’s managing director, operations.

“We were losing productivity and losing calls.”

Canadian Western specializes in retirement and investment plans. With a staff of about 55, the company normally fields an average of 300 calls per day. During peak months from January to March, that number escalates to about 1000 a day.

Phillips said it was not rare for a customer queries to be answered one to three days after the call was made.

Phillips said they moved quickly to divide their staff into two distinct groups. One group was to handle business processes and the other to take care of customer concerns.

In adding a call centre-type function to its front office, Canadian Western found that it needed software that would help them route and track calls.

Libei Cheng, the trust company’s IT manager, said they investigated several customer relations management (CRM) software packages, but found the right fit in UniPress Software’s Footprints.

“We found that Footprints fit our needs the best because it offered in-house hosting capability and allowed our clients access via the Internet without their having to install any software,” Cheng said.

“A particular advantage of Footprints is that it is completely Web-based. Just drop it onto your Web server and you’re ready to go,” said Mark Krieger, president and co-founder of the Edison, NJ-based UniPress.

While Canadian Western is a relatively small operation, Krieger said “Footprints is scalable and can be run by hundreds of users.”

Western Trust uses the MSDE version of the SQL Server as database. It is a free runtime SQL and is cheap to operate because it has the same engine as the corporate version, minus the administrator tools. Cheng said Footprints is one of the few products that support the MSDE version.

Another feature that attracted Western Trust was the ease of installment and short learning curve needed to gain competence in the software.

“It took me only 20 minutes to download the software, and when I did run into a snag the UniPress help desk answered in three rings and resolved the problem in five minutes,” Cheng said.

Training Western Trust’s employees on the software took no more than 30 minutes, he said.

Phillips said they now have an average of 40 people concentrating on business processes and seven employees manning the in-house call centre and two more receiving calls in remote locations.

With the tracking and reporting features, they are able to prioritize calls, log wait times and pinpoint recurring problems that customers call about.

Phillips does not have any call statistics prior to using Footprints, but she said “we have never lost a call since we installed the software.”

Canadian Western employees were able to concentrate on their assigned roles.

“We were able to boost performance and service levels without reducing staff,” Phillips said.

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