A Teller Management SystemTM Case Study
The $864 million Kansas-based Meritrust Credit Union (Meritrust) has maximized the teller investment at their 14 branches, with the help of FMSI’s Teller Management SystemTM. Meritrust reduced their teller labor costper transaction from $1.09 to $0.96, by scheduling the right number of tellers during the right times, and successfully utilizing the detailed FMSI business intelligence reports. While reducing excess staff, through attrition, has helped them save $156,000 in annualized labor costs, Meritrust also has been able to maximize their teller resources, especially at their lower volume branches—by identifying lull periods in transaction activity, and then assigning specific sales, service and training tasks during these times.
Reducing Labor Cost by Staffing More Effectively
Upon rolling out the FMSI system, Meritrust’s management team made it a priority to gain buy-in from their front-line staff on the new staffing approach. They were very transparent with their staff when explaining their intentions with the system, which were to better align staffing levels with actual forecasted transaction activities, as opposed to what some might have assumed was a simple staff cutting initiative. They assured them that they would only eliminate staffing positions through attrition.
“When implementing the FMSI system, we took extra care with explaining our intentions with our front-line staff,” says Kimberly Rowley, VP Retail Delivery & Operations at Meritrust. “We had heard this was a critical part of achieving a successful roll-out from other FMSI clients. To help with these conversations, we showed them our internal productivity performances comparing our different branches and monthly results, and the noticeable gaps really motivated them to get on board with the process. Our people are competitive and the mentality of ‘if that branch can do it, we can do it’ has served us well.”
Another important factor in focusing the Meritrust staff was to clearly communicate management’s expectations with the system. The management team decided to set a first-year goal of increasing the credit union’s productivity by 10%, an accomplishment they were able to achieve within seven months of system roll-out.
“It was exciting to achieve a 10% increase in our productivity in our first seven months,” Rowley adds. “It is an ongoing process that requires our continued focus.”
Scheduling Tasks during Lulls in Transaction Activity
Regardless of how optimally staffed a branch is, there is invariably going to be downtime, especially in low transaction volume branches. It is important for Meritrust to identify these moments proactively with FMSI’s forecasting scheduling system, and assign specific tasks. They focus this valuable time for training, and also perform other non-member facing and administrative work.
“Getting the most out of our teller downtime, with the help of the FMSI scheduling software, has been a big win for Meritrust,” adds Rowley. “Our regional managers all got together and developed training materials focusing on what they all deemed as critically important for our tellers to have in-depth knowledge on. Our tellers have to study these materials and complete online tests during their lulls in transaction activity. These training materials combined with a sales initiative we rolled out one year prior to using FMSI, has led to considerablesales, service and productivity improvements.”
Other than tracking the number of tests passed per employee and a general observation of improved behavior, Meritrust has had measurable results from their increased focus on their sales during their downtime activities. Specifically, one of their lower volume branches saw a growth in their core deposits from $21 million to $31 million in the last year, and another branch was able to move their credit life and credit disability scores for all new loans from 4.8% in the beginning of the year to 40% towards the end of the year.
“One of the most impressive improvements was with our investment referrals,” adds Rowley. “Our tellers were intimidated to discuss investments. They were afraid of being asked questions they could not answer. So as a result of our focused sales initiative we worked on building some general investment knowledge, during lull times. Our efforts have really paid off, seeing a 63% increase in the number of referrals over the past year.
Best Practices from the VP Retail Delivery & Operations at Meritrust Credit Union
- Make sure that all your managers are signed-up for the FMSI emails. Encourage them to read the different case studies and white papers, and share with their teams something they learned.
- Utilize the new FMSI Online Dashboard. You can quickly navigate the system to get to all your summary and branch reports. We love it.
- Ask managers to share best practices of the FMSI solution during employee meetings, to help drive employee engagement. All topics can be covered, whether it is a specific report to focus on or technical tip for the online scheduling engine.
Meritrust Credit Union has maximized their teller investment with the help of FMSI’s forecasting and scheduling solution, the Teller Management SystemTM. As a result, they have had considerable gains in sales, service and productivity achievements. In less than a full year on the program, Meritrust has taken their labor cost per teller transaction from $1.09 to $0.96—or $156,000 in annualized labor cost savings, and they have set another double digit percentage productivity increase for this year.
For the past twenty years, FMSI has conducted a detailed annual study of the teller activities for the month of March as a benchmark. The study is a compilation of statistics from the branch environment in community banks and credit unions - located in geographic regions ranging from Florida to Alaska. Click on the link below.
» See eye-popping industry metrics about the teller line.
» Study the trends of branch traffic in the retail banking environment.
» Learn about different strategic approaches from industry experts.
By Gordon A. Williams IV, Executive Vice President of FMSI
Many organizations are facing challenges in determining how to have a productive workforce while transaction volumes continue to decline. If you take a moment to reflect on yourbranch environment, how often do you look at your branches and see your employees there ready to assist your account holders, yet the account holders aren’t there to support your staffing levels? It’s a problem that has challenged management teams for years, and there is no sign of this trend changing, as transactions, sales, and relationship activities continue to minimize their branch dependencies.
With minimum staffing requirements, like dual control, forcing branches to schedule a certain number of FTEs in order to open their doors for business, tellers often are scheduled to work when the account holder traffic demand is not there. The result is an environment where tellers are frequently waiting for work, causing morale and service issues alike.
Compartmentalizing Duties on the Teller Line
As an employee, would you enjoy working at a teller station while only servicing a handful of account holders each hour? Let’s consider two scenarios for a moment. Which job description sounds more favorable to you?
- Scenario 1: Your position requires you to work eight hours per day to assist clients in processing teller transactions. There will be busy times and lines may form; while there will also be other times with limited activity. During times that there is not a lot of activity, it is up to you to make this time productive by taking care of reports, calling for referrals, or utilizing this as lunch/break time.
- Scenario 2: Your position requires you to work eight hours per day, but on a daily basis you will know when you are expected to process transactions for your clients, when you are expected to have dedicated time to generate new referral/sales opportunities through outbound calls, and when you need to take a lunch/break, limiting the exposure of an understaffed branch to your account holders. You will have a schedule generated for you that identifies when you need to be on the teller line to assist your account holders due to high demand, while also having a defined time for sales, training, or coaching activities that must take place as well.
Planning Specific Activities per Hour vs. an Open Ended Approach
Which description sounds like the job you would want to apply for? Scenario 1 exemplifies the “hurry up and wait” approach to scheduling. Tellers are in a hurry to get their drawers set up in a branch at the start of the day, but then spend a lot of their day waiting for account holders to show up to transact business. While there may be a list of activities that should be taken care of during teller “down time,” they never receive the focus they deserve and take much longer than they should due to constant interruptions.
Scenario 2 exemplifies what can be done by blocking time for necessary activities through use of a scheduling solution. It’s a visionary approach to scheduling that identifies when your employees need to be in their teller stations to assist account holders, but also indicates when they should be doing other necessary duties. If these duties include outbound sales calls or training, do you think this approach would allow you to achieve, or exceed, your sales goals?
Remember, just because your organization has minimum staffing requirements does not mean that your organization should settle for minimum productivity requirements as well. Consider putting your core transaction data to work for your team and allowing technology to forecast your account holder demand, staff the right resources when your account holders need them, and schedule other duties and tasks when appropriate creating the right environment for your employees and account holders alike.
Congratulations to Envision Credit Union for having this month’s FMSI Chart of the Month. This chart represents their workforce utilization percentage, which is dividing the total number of their teller processing hours by their payroll hours—per position. Their teller (TELL) percent is better than the overall industry average from the 2011 FMSI Workforce Utilization Study (a free download at www.fmsi.com/utilizationstudy).
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