Who is F&M?
- State-chartered, community bank
- Growing 7.5% annually
- Began the relationship with Hiscall around 1999
F&M Bank is a state-chartered, community bank. Management makes decisions locally and reinvests customer dollars back into the communities they serve. Established in 1906, in Bumpus Mills, Tennessee, as Farmers and Merchants Bank, it survived the Great Depression and remained rooted in the small Stewart County community.
In 2002, with assets of $335 million and eight locations, Farmers and Merchants transformed into today’s F&M Bank headquartered in Clarksville, TN. Currently, with assets of $850 million, they operate in 20 locations from Dover, TN to Cookeville and multiple offices in the surrounding Nashville area.
”Hiscall, over our almost 15-year relationship, has been consistent, providing responsive, high-quality service.C. DEWAYNE OLIVEExecutive Vice President and CFO, F&M Bank
The F&M Challenge
How do we cut costs and improve communications?
Since 2001, the bank has experienced a growth rate of 7.5%; however, from 1995 through 2006 the bank grew at a rate of 10-30% annually. Executive management realized their phone system would be insufficient to meet their growing needs.
The bank required a more stable telephone system that would serve as a foundation for growth. Management wanted to transition to a 4-digit dialing system instead of the 10-digit dialing between offices that required long-distance expense and delay.
In 2001, management began looking for ways to take advantage of emerging technology, to reduce costs and improve efficiency. They had to feel confident that their ultimate choices would include people possessing the expertise and integrity to provide cutting-edge equipment and top-quality service.
The Hiscall Relationship
How can Hiscall provide solutions?
F&M executives began a search involving advisors from their service provider and several vendors, including Gary Luffman, President and CEO of Hiscall, Inc. C. DeWayne Olive, Executive Vice President and CFO of F&M Bank said, “Here’s where a good relationship is invaluable. We place a great deal of trust in who we’re doing business with and what they tell us.”
The F&M Executive Management decided on a VoIP system which was very new at that time. Hiscall was a distributor for the manufacturer, and Luffman suggested the system for F&M, confident it would give F&M the performance they wanted. This would be the first VoIP system in middle Tennessee, and because it was so new, the manufacturer had just a prototype and a timeline for installation. They promised an aggressive go-live date, one that clearly made Luffman uncomfortable.
Olive recounts that Luffman stood up in the meeting and said, “This is all new stuff and I’m just not going to promise that date. I will promise to put in whatever we need to keep the phones up and get you through temporarily, if we have to, at my expense. I can’t make any commitments other than F&M will not be hurt in the process.”
Luffman’s concerns were justified when the manufacturer couldn’t deliver on the promised date. Hiscall stepped in, dropped in an entire new system with all the handsets and everything necessary to make it work until the VoIP was ready.
According to Olive, “Thanks to Hiscall, we never missed a step. It was about six months later that the manufacturer had the VoIP system up and running to the point where Gary felt it was stable enough to function on its own. Hiscall never charged us a penny for the temporary system. We rode their dime for the whole six months. That’s the Hiscall we’ve come to know and love.”
What has Hiscall done for us?
Luffman’s suggestion paid off for F&M. The VoIP system was worth the wait. F&M is still using the same system some 12+ years later. Olive said, “It has been an excellent investment for us: we’re 12-13 years into this system and it’s still running rock-solid. Back then, every three to five years, businesses had to do a ‘forklift upgrade’ but our system has never gone down. I know we’ve had to replace a card here and there, but the stability and longevity of the system has probably made this one of the most economical phone systems I’ve ever seen. Our original investment has paid us back multiple times.”
What did we learn through the process?
Cheapest initial investment is not always the most cost effective
Olive felt one thing important for potential customers to know is that Hiscall is not always the cheapest provider.
Back in 2008, F&M made a big expansion on the mortgage business and bought an office in Murfreesboro. The officer running that location was very cost-conscious. When she saw the initial quote from Hiscall she balked. She had a local vendor who would give her something at less than half the price. Olive told her what he thought, but she had been in the business a long time and she was trying to keep the cost down. He let her go with the one she wanted. Olive said, “Less than two years later, the system died.”
The officer called her local vendor. They told her they’d honor the warranty, and they should have her back up and running in about two weeks. The officer knew that time frame was unacceptable.
A phone system is lifeblood for mortgage people, and the business could not be without phones for two weeks. She contacted Olive and they contacted Gary. Hiscall immediately went down and installed the originally quoted system. They were up and running the next day.
Vast inventory available for immediate, emergency installation can be crucial
Olive went on to explain, “Here’s where an independent person saw the value of the relationship. Very few companies keep systems and parts in stock, ready to roll. That’s one of the reasons F&M has been comfortable with running a 12-yearold system.”
High quality service goes a long way
Olive says, “Here’s another example of the exceptional Hiscall service we’ve come to rely on.” Late at night in the middle of summer, Hiscall was getting a temperature alert on F&M’s Computer Room. The Hiscall, on-call technician could not reach F&M’s IT Manager, so he called Luffman, who called Olive at home, around 10:00 at night. Olive located the IT Manager and they were able to address the issue. Olive says, “That probably saved us untold expense, by taking care of the air conditioning problem before the heat damaged the equipment.”
Reduced risk provides peace of mind
Olive had another instance of a skeptic coming around to Hiscall. Their current IT Director came to F&M from a billion -dollar bank in Florida. Olive told him they were working with Hiscall, a telephone equipment provider out of Dickson, Tennessee. Olive says, “He looked at me cynically, but because of my position, he went with it.”
The IT Director was impressed that during the many storms in middle Tennessee, he can go into F&M’s system and find Hiscall technicians already in there, checking the lines and verifying that everything is working properly. He told Olive, “That happens whenever the bad storms hit. Hiscall people are coming in to check to make sure our lines are up. It’s just something they do, putting their finger on the pulse, making sure everything’s OK.”
According to Olive, the IT Director is now a believer who sleeps better knowing that someone is looking after things.
“Those are the sorts of things that are very hard to value, and if you start looking just at dollars and cents, you’d miss it. But over time, it’s made us a very loyal customer. Hiscall, over our almost 15-year relationship, has been consistent, providing responsive, high-quality service.” – C. DeWayne Olive, Executive Vice President and CFO, F&M Bank.