Fires, Floods, Blizzards and Hurricanes: A Disaster Year in Review with PSCU

Is it just me or has this been a record year for hurricanes, wildfires, blizzards and now a major earthquake? I feel so fortunate that I have not had to experience any of this in my little town in New Mexico. My credit union: not so lucky as it is headquartered in Panama City, Fla. 

It seems that we easily forget about something major like Hurricane Michael, and the fact that those impacted by that storm are STILL recovering because the media quickly moves us along to the Nor’easter that crippled the New England states and then the 7.0 earthquake that rocked Anchorage. It’s hard to keep up.

One of the unsung heroes in all of this is PSCU. I saw them mentioned in a press release this week about how they help members when their credit union is temporarily unable to because they are more concerned about the safety of staff and security of the building, and rightfully so. 

Rini Fredette, SVP of PSCU Contact Center Operations

I spoke with Rini Fredette, SVP of Contact Center Operations for PSCU, to find out just how they do it. 

Here’s what I found out: They have over 800 credit unions in the U.S. that already use their 24/7 contact centers. She oversees over 1,000 agents between their card services and member services contact centers. I imagined 1,000 employees in a giant building, but they are smarter than that. Because what if THAT center is hit by a tornado, for example? 

Instead their agents are strategically spread out among Detroit, Phoenix, Norman, Okla., and Ocala, Fla. Her job is really “air traffic control” when a disaster hits. 

“Each disaster is different,” said Rini. “For example, Hurricane Florence’s impact on the Carolinas was more of a flooding event than the winds of Hurricane Michael that damaged Panama City. The impact of a flood event on the contact center versus a high wind disaster is much slower and longer lasting. Because we have had so much experience with these different natural disasters, we are able to learn from the credit unions how they are best serving their members. For example, when recovery is clearly going to be months for an area, credit unions empathize by forgiving delinquent loans and waiving late fees. We act as kind of a ‘best practices’ consultant with our credit unions.” 

That’s one of the things that really separates credit unions from most banks. Our willingness to see the person’s situation and work with them rather than exploit it. I know it’s one of the reasons I’m a credit union lifer – people helping people is paramount, especially in a time of crisis.

“We do business continuity testing regularly across our various contact centers to ensure we can shift call volume as needed,” added Rini.

Another thing I learned about her team: she makes sure they enjoy their jobs because turnover is not good for anyone. One of the best examples is a holiday party: She will shift calls to another location so that team can come together, enjoy a break and have some fun. I love that. 

Early on in my career I worked in a call center for the largest credit union in Oregon, and I remember how difficult that job could be under normal circumstances. When you pick up the phone, you are like dispatch for a 911 system. It may not be YOUR emergency, but it’s their emergency. Now add the stress of a real natural disaster. This is one special group of people led by an amazing woman. And it’s no wonder she was cut out to do this: before she began her career, she was a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). 

For more information about PSCU and how you can be prepared to serve your members around the clock all the time and especially during a disaster, check them out at www.pscu.com.