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Left to Your Own Devices
When customers with Transportation Alliance Bank (TAB) tried to access their accounts in late February 2012, they ran into a snag. Transactions weren’t posting and they weren’t able to draw on their money markets. Because TAB’s clients are people in the transportation industry, including long-haul truckers, being without funds quickly became a serious issue.
Irate phone calls started pouring into the bank’s headquarters in Utah.
Just a few days earlier, TAB had moved off its proprietary computer system, which had operated all the banking needs for its customers since 1998, and transitioned to a standard core banking program. When the bank’s platform went live with the new vendor, some of its third-party providers ran into problems, leaving customers with no access to funds.
To add to the confusion, TAB has no physical locations or branches anywhere in the country, and as concerned customers called in, the phone lines were strained beyond capacity, taking more than eight times the normal volume of calls.
“That was really the crux of the whole issue—the inability to communicate with our customers,” says Burton May, COO of TAB. “The frustration on their side, and ours, was that our communications network was stretched to the point that we couldn’t get to our people as quickly as we wanted.”
TAB’s customers work in remote areas and rely heavily on phone communication, even more than online servicing. When they couldn’t reach a representative from TAB in a reasonable amount of time (wait times were up to 30 minutes during the crisis), people got upset, which only added to the problem.
“We took some hits in the trucking audiences as there were individuals that lashed out at us any way that they could. We understood their frustration as they were not able to do what they normally do, but we also realized that the vocal minority did not speak for all our customers,” May says. “We saw as many brand advocates come to our aid in the public forums, noting all the good we provide the underserviced trucking companies and their drivers.”
Once customers were able to speak with TAB representatives, the problems were addressed and corrected quickly. But during the three weeks following the transition, it was all hands on deck for TAB employees, who worked extra shifts and weekends to get things back to normal.
Many of the bank’s 250 employees operated around the clock, stopping only for sleep, in order to get the call volume back down and regain control of the situation. The company’s crisis organization plan went into effect and TAB’s management team met several times each day to address any new issues, track fixes and get messages out to customers.
Channels were created where clients could leave emails and voicemails, detailing their banking problems. Employees would review those and get back with the customer to meet their needs. The company’s website also regularly posted new information.
Social media networks were utilized to relay updates so TAB’s trucking clients could stay informed. The bank received a few negative comments on its Facebook page and Twitter account, but there were others who talked about what a unique bank TAB is, providing services to the trucking industry that no one else was doing. By using the Facebook platform, employees could solve problems for several people at once who might be experiencing similar difficulties.
Making Things Right
With more than 250,000 clients across the country, keeping on top of each specific issue seemed daunting. TAB paid nearly $200,000 to reimburse customers who were charged fines, levies or fees because of the transition problem. They also increased the fuel discounts for clients as a thank-you for staying with TAB during the conversion.
As a result, the bank found that transactions per card actually went up since the change took place. Bank leaders assume a few customers were lost during the process but believe the core customer base stayed—and have increased the use of the bank’s products.
“We tried to do right by the customer when it came to a financial standpoint,” says Eric Myers, TAB vice president of marketing. “We know there are some clients that went through hardships and we didn’t want to add to that by them having to spend extra funds on things that would have been avoided outside of this conversion.”
TAB officials believe this experience made them stronger. Customer service has improved and additional products, like mobile banking and treasury management, were introduced. And the company was able to access additional markets and audiences that don’t need physical locations to do their banking.
From an internal standpoint, TAB has learned to trust in its employees. “We had people that stepped up and we probably didn’t have a clue how good they were until the adversity hit,” May says. “We had to let people run because we didn’t have time to manage at a micro level. And our people excelled in what they did.
“It was our version of Apollo 13—a successful failure,” he continues. “While we would not want to go through that again, we became very efficient in fixing issues and those processes are in place today. We’re the only bank in the country that has a focus on transportation as a core competency. We figure if we can successfully work with truckers, whose offices move at 65 miles per hour, we can work with anyone.”