Mountain America Credit Union
Ahead of the Curve: A progressive, comprehensive IT solution for Mountain America Credit Union
Mountain America Credit Union has nearly tripled in size since Ray Carsey, Assistant Vice President of Technology, joined the company seven years ago.
"I have the same number of people that I did when we started, and we have three times as many branches, we have three times as many employees, and my team takes care of three times as much work," Carsey says.
In order to meet the networking and telecommunications needs of Utah’s second-largest credit union, Carsey’s team of four must work a lot of long hours, right?
"No," says network services supervisor Alex Barker, "We probably work less hours" than when they supported a mere fraction of the current 640 employees and 182,000 members.
Carsey attributes his team’s efficiency and continued success to a combination of "the right people, the right product and the right partner—Mountain States Networking."
Mountain States Networking partnered with Carsey’s team to implement a converged network solution from Cisco Systems, which coincided with the credit union’s move to new corporate offices in West Jordan, Utah.
Thanks in part to Mountain States Networking, a Cisco Systems Gold Certified Partner, Mountain America’s headquarters and 38 branches now enjoy the efficiency and peace of mind that superior voice, data and network systems can bring. (Not to mention full-color-display telephones and other impressive bells and whistles.)
The Right People: Solutions that benefit valued Mountain America Employees.
Ray Carsey. Alex Barker. Terry Bytheway. Kelly Hofheins. This is the team that handles the IT needs of the Mountain America family—including the accounting department, the call center team, the tellers and loan officers at far-flung branches, and members throughout Utah and three other states. In different ways, they all benefit from a centralized, customized phone and networking system that can be configured and supported remotely.
When implementing the new Cisco solution, Mountain America Credit Union and Mountain States kept the valued employees in mind. With the new system, those employees who work from home—currently around 20—are able to do so seamlessly.
"Our telecommuters are some of our best agents," says service center manager Kelly Hofheins. "A call center is typically a high turnover area. Our telecommuters have been with us for years. They love the benefit of being able to work from home, and we love having them. We can monitor them, just like they are in the office. It’s really transparent."
The ability to integrate telecommuters into the system so easily has widespread benefits. "If someone is going on maternity leave or are going to stay at home, there’s often a way for them to work from home," Barker says, saving the expense of rehiring and retraining. Additionally, in the event of power outages or a corporate office evacuation, the telecommuters can keep the phones up and running, with no noticeable disruption for members.
"We could telecommute the whole company if we wanted to," says telecommunications specialist Terry Bytheway, and he can manage the whole system remotely from his desktop, or from his own home if he decides to telecommute for a day.
"As far as changing features and things like that, it’s all web-based. The employee can be sitting in their home, and I can make changes from anywhere at any hour of the day," Bytheway adds. "It’s a lot easier, a lot faster. And now some of our branches are on the same phone system as well."
Mountain America Credit Union’s mission statement—"Quality people, providing quality products and service through quality delivery systems"—is apparent in their partnership with Mountain States, a leading network integrator in the west. It is also apparent in their willingness to implement technological innovations ahead of the curve in order to better serve employees and members alike.The Right Product:
Integrated security, network, data and voice systems from Cisco.
"We’re a financial institution, we have to make sure that our members’ information is protected," Carsey says, "We’ve got a layered approach to security, so we don’t have just one device protecting our network. We have various Cisco products that make up different pieces of our security system," including intrusion detection.
The network itself is also fully redundant. "If we lose any piece of equipment in the data center, there’s another piece that takes over for it, and we didn’t have that before," Carsey says.
Another benefit of the new Cisco system is company-wide consistency and centralized control.
At the corporate headquarters and at the newer branches, all employees work on an integrated desktop where they receive voice mail, e-mail and faxes. With this unified messaging, new employee training is faster and more intuitive, and it results in half as much wiring, since the computer plugs into the phone, which plugs into the wall.
"All our branches have terminals, but the software is up on the server," Barker says. "We just standardized everything. That was the main thing. Every branch is set up exactly the same, all the PCs at all the branches are set up exactly the same, and the Cisco equipment at every branch is set up the same. We just dump the same configuration on every piece of equipment out there. We can change everything from the corporate office."
Additionally, one person can set up an entire branch in a day, when it used to take the whole department 2-3 days to configure a new branch. Trouble-shooting is less of an issue now.
"And if we have a problem, it’s usually system-wide instead of a single problem," Bytheway adds. "If we do have a single problem, [we know it’s the equipment]. We can just swap it out and not worry about the problem happening again."
In the call center, Hofheins has been impressed with the ease-of-use of the phone system. During the corporate relocation, Hofheins left the old building and the old phone system on a Friday. She arrived at work the next Monday, a little nervous to try out a brand new phone system on the highest call-volume day of the week.
"We had about 2500 calls that day, which is quite a lot for us, and within minutes, the agents were experts on the phone system," Hofheins says. "It required very minimal training, and within their first 2 or 3 calls, the agents were off and running. The transition was not bad at all."
And members who called in that Monday morning didn’t notice a thing. The Right Partner:
Experience, customization and local support from Mountain States Networking.
"Another big reason that we can keep our staff size small, is the Mountain States engineers," says Carsey. "I can’t afford to hire a Cisco-certified engineer to have on staff full-time, but I can afford to bring these guys in once every couple of weeks, or whatever we need, and if we couldn’t do that, I’d need more people."
Mountain States Networking prides itself on expert engineers with more than 75 years of combined experience in trouble-shooting, routing, switching, security, VOIP, firewalls, wireless, you name it. And someone is always on call.
"We do a lot of after-hours upgrades and things, and the Mountain States guys will answer the phone at midnight or 1:00 a.m. They are always available to help us out," Barker says, and he especially appreciates that Mountain States has retained the same core group of engineers and account managers for 15 years, so relationships can be built and maintained.
One Mountain States engineer, Josh Watkins, configured an IOS fax solution for Barker in a single afternoon.
"It’s hardware-based and it runs on a router," Barker says. "And there’s no maintenance. It saved us $15,000 to $20,000, not to mention the savings in paper," since faxes are delivered directly to employees’ desktops.
More than anything else, Hofheins appreciates the local support.
"Pre-move, we actually had a fairly good phone system," she says, "but we didn’t have local support for it. And because of that, we went without a lot of things. The system had a lot of capabilities, only we weren’t really using a lot of them."
One of those unused capabilities was call center reporting. For a year before the new Cisco system came into play, Hofheins didn’t have any reliable information regarding call volume, agent availability, service levels and other valuable statistics.
"One of the greatest things about moving over to the new phone system was that we did have that local support. We did have immediate reports. Suddenly we had all of this data that we didn’t have before," Hofheins says.
"The other great thing was how customizable the phone system was. We said, ‘Well, we’d really like it to do this.’ And right away, the engineers were on it," she adds.
Now Hofheins can track call volume and can shuffle agents around based on incoming data. It wasn’t long before she realized the call center needed more Spanish-speaking agents and more technical support agents.
"Members are being helped a lot more efficiently because I can switch my agents around real time and be able to support the different skill sets that we have," Hofheins says. Ahead of the Curve
Mountain America Credit Union has proved itself to be an early innovator when it comes to technology. With a staff of four, Ray Carsey has seen his company through exponential growth, managing to simultaneously achieve greater redundancy, greater security, greater peace of mind, better response times and better service for the company’s 182,000 members.
All of that and less stress for his staff.
That’s all thanks to having the right staff, choosing the right Cisco products, and working with the right partner—Mountain States Networking, one of the west’s leading network integrators since 1995.