LPL Financial has increased the capacity of its service center, the call center handling queries, complaints and comments from the firm's brokers, by 25 percent since August; the center is answering calls faster and is better able to get brokers the information they need by restructuring the staff around topics instead of advisory teams.
About a year ago, the firm hired Tom Gooley as its managing director of service, trading and operations. Most recently at TIAA-CREF, Gooley was previously the head of operations for the global wealth and asset management divisions of Morgan Stanley during the firm’s integration with Smith Barney. At LPL, he was tasked with improving the service center, which was running under capacity at the time.
Since September, the service center is answering calls 74 percent faster. The firm has an internal service level agreement to answer 70 percent of calls within 30 seconds; they are now within this metric, Gooley says.
In addition, the amount of time service center employees are on the phone with advisors—the “average handle time”—has improved 17 percent since September. The number of escalations, or people complaining that something didn’t work correctly, has dropped 30 to 35 percent over that same period.
One thing Gooley has done is to change the way the firm hires service center reps. It used to be flat across the year, but call volume ramps up at year-end and during tax season. So the firm increases headcount during those times.
He’s also developed a specific career path for service center employees, who may have aspirations to move into a different role within the firm.
Eighty percent of the firm’s advisors go to what the firm calls a “360 team,” a group of eight people who are specifically assigned to a group of advisors. The other 20 percent of advisors, who tend to have lower production, are routed to the general service center.
These employees get detailed information on topics like retirement accounts, alternatives and the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, but only once a month at most. That means they would often not be able to answer a broker's query without hunting down additional information and scheduling follow-up calls. Gooley developed a team of reps trained on these more complex topics to answer those questions on a regular basis from any LPL advisor.
The firm has also consolidated its metrics to identify trends and gaps in the service structure, thinning out call volume. They identify why advisors are calling and reduce the reasons they have to call in. If the firm gets a lot of calls about something, the process is probably broken. Perhaps a particular form is not intuitive and needs to be changed. But if a few select FAs are calling about a process, it’s probably an issue with those advisors. The firm will train advisors with high exception rates to get those exceptions down.
Oftentimes, an advisor can be more efficient—and have less need to call in—when they use the firm’s electronic applications. For example, previously, when a client wanted to move money, the advisor and client had to fill out a paper and email, fax or mail it in. Then someone would re-key the information and process it. But the firm’s “move money” application allows them to file it electronically, removing those manual steps and possible human errors.