The Draper Approach
Over a period of years, the scope of services offered by the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC) expanded from those of a Guarantor and Lender of Student Loans to also include the administration of State Scholarship and Grant Programs, including the HOPE Scholarship. The processes and systems required to support the individual products had developed independent of one another leading to confusing and frustrating interaction for customers and creating redundant, inefficient, and costly operations for the Commission. Each customer group had unique requirements and expectations of the service delivery. Specialized service representatives were responsible for information or processing requests exclusively in their specific area of expertise.
In recognition of this fragmented environment, the GSFC initiated a project to address these shortcomings. The objective of the "Cornerstone" Project was to improve customer service while creating a seamless, efficient operation and process flow. A review of the communication systems and operational processes highlighted opportunities for reducing cost, improving service and performance of the existing staff through training. GSFC engaged Draper & Associates to project manage this initiative.
The Draper Approach
The Cornerstone Project focused on three (3) major areas for improvement:
(1) Telephone Systems
The telephone system provided a menu of options, but the options did not offer choices that addressed the majority of calls. It was scripted so that most callers requested to speak with a customer service representative. These calls were then distributed through an ACD with the customer service representative responding by transferring the call to a specialist elsewhere within GSFC.
To improve service and response time to callers, the GSFC implemented the following enhancements:
- An IVR system was developed that allowed access to account information at any time. Options were provided to allow customers to make payments on line or to find out the status of loans applications.
- The menu options were revised to address the primary reasons for calls and to route the calls to the appropriate area on the first point of contact.
The website provided information about the business and products of the agency, but information was not intuitive and difficult to navigate. General information was provided but it did not allow customers to gain access to their information and since it was not specific, most customers had to resort to calling the agency to request information.
To enhance the ease with which viewers could navigate the GSFC website, the Commission implemented the following improvements:
- The website was organized to navigate based on the customer segment rather than the business unit.
- A loan servicing module was implemented to provide customer level information to allow basic account updates by the customer.
- An E-mail tracking system was implemented to ensure consistent responses to requests while monitoring time turnaround time on each response.
Customer Service Representatives lacked sufficient knowledge of individual products offered by GSFC, necessitating their transferring the majority of calls to other personnel within the agency to answer caller inquiries.
To ensure that the callers were better served at the first point of contact and transferred calls were significantly reduced, GSFC took the following actions to remediate the situation:
- A comprehensive training program was developed for service agents that increased their skills and systems access to support all products serviced by the Commission.
- Job descriptions were revised to provide career progression based on demonstrated experience and skill level.
- Procedures were revised to ensure consistent interaction and performance expectations.
As a result of this comprehensive business process review, Project Cornerstone was able to achieve the following accomplishments:
- Staff headcount was reduced from twenty-three to eighteen while improving or maintaining established service levels.
- The percentage of calls requiring a transfer to specialist reduced from more than 40% to 20%.
- E-mail contact was reduced from an average of more than 20 business days to an average of 3 business days.
- Telephone trunk line utilization was improved to reduce busy signals.
- Customer Satisfaction was increased by providing on-line access to information including application status, account payments, statements.
- Voluntary staff attrition was minimal during the transition.
- Consistent procedures were developed and compiled into a Customer Relations Manual for use by Customer Service Representatives.