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Vicki Gerson
Vicki Gerson
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Union Planters Overhauls Customer Contact System

An internal evaluation process determined the Union Planters' telephone systems needed increased flexibility to better meet the delivery demands of today's consumers.

Although Union Planters didn't have a technology problem with its current customer contact network, an internal evaluation process determined the bank's telephone systems needed increased flexibility to better meet the delivery demands of today's consumers.

The Memphis, Tenn.-based institution responded by installing a new telephone contact management system, Customer Interaction Center (CIC), from Indianapolis, Ind.-based Interactive Intelligence. CIC, a service-based application, will allow the bank to intelligently route and manage customer interactions by phone, e-mail, fax, or the Web. The new system replaces traditional phone networks with software-based technology, which launches multiple functionalities on a few servers.

"The old system doesn't provide all these routing choices," said Robin Markle, director of contact center services at $35 billion Union Planters. "With this platform, we can be flexible because programming takes place in-house. We can assign skill sets to our customer service representatives to better match our customers with the appropriate representative the first time according to the customer's choices in the voice response system."

The new technology will be housed in four contact centers: Hattiesburg, Miss., Memphis, Tenn., Miami, Fla., and Belleville, Ill. Each month Hattiesburg takes in 110,000 to 140,000 calls, while the other three contact centers process a total of 2.6 million calls. Because the bank hasn't completed its conversion, the contact centers are currently on a Siemens platform for both switch and automatic call distribution, with a Nortel voice response unit.

The customer contact center project stems from UPExcel, an ongoing strategic initiative announced by Union Planters last year. The brainchild of chairman Jack Moore, UPExcel involves an internal evaluation of every process and methodology in use at the bank.

A group of 34 individuals-each with different expertise, background and level of experience-conducted a four-month evaluation last year, from which thousands of ideas were gathered and submitted to a senior executive committee. Improving the telephone contact management system was one of them.

Initial research for a new contact center system began last April, with presentations from industry leaders such as Genesys, Davox and Siemens. In September, the bank signed a contract with BellSouth, one of the bank's premier vendors, which distributes Interactive Intelligence products.

Then, installation and conversion was begun at the Hattiesburg contact center. Testing has been completed, and the contact center was expected to go live in early February, with Memphis and Miami following soon after.

The new telephone contact management system will allow Union Planters to staff to real volume rather than just peaks and valleys, noted Markle. "The ability to get a customer to a customer service representative quicker, with the right information, is a huge benefit in terms of line time. The ability to manage peaks with call backs-this system allows customers the option of staying in the queue but hanging up the phone-saves customers time."

Because the servers are networked, resources can be shared across different sites. The system is seamless; customers will never know they've been sent to another center. Union Planters is expecting a 100 percent return on investment within two years.

CIC provides the real-time information, control and screen pop capabilities necessary for agent support and supervision. In addition to allowing supervisors to view and listen to lines, queues, stations and agents, the product's user-definable alarms alert supervisors when important conditions occur. Supervisors can also record any interaction they choose-either manually or automatically-and can utilize CIC to generate reports tracking every performance aspect of an agent and/or an entire contact center.

Another important benefit is cost of ownership. The system will cost 70 percent less than the old one to maintain, according to Paul Weber, vice president of sales at Interactive Intelligence.

Yet another benefit is the opportunity for immediate customer feedback. Customers will be selected at random for a short survey before they interact with a customer representative. If they choose to take the survey, they stay on the phone after talking to the representative and answer a few questions. All survey calls are recorded. A poor rating automatically triggers an alert to a service recovery expert, who has 30 seconds to call the customer back.

"We will respond to the feedback, not just collect it," Markle said. "This new platform will provide us with greater flexibility in making changes and adapting to customer needs."

Training is being conducted with a computer-based training module plus in-house trainers. Separate training will be given to system administrators so they can be taught how to run, maintain and manage the system on a day-to-day basis.


Fast Facts

INSTITUTION: Union Planters

ASSETS: $35 billion

BUSINESS CHALLENGE: Intelligently route and manage customer interactions by phone, fax, e-mail and the Web.

SOLUTION: Customer Interaction Center from Interactive Intelligence

KEY QUOTE: "This new platform will provide us with greater flexibility in making changes and adapting to customer needs." - Robin Markle, director of contact center services

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