Harris Bank Unifies Services With New Call Center and Database

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In an effort to ensure the uniformity of the customer service it provides at its 14 branches throughout the Chicago area, Harris Bank has installed a new centralized database and created its first company-wide call center that replaces a fractured system in which telephone customer service had been left to each individual branch.

"Harris decided to make major changes that would provide consistent services and information across different types of applications and systems in three different delivery channels," said Carlos Touza, vice president of the client contact center of Harris Bank.

The centralized database system, installed by Hewlett-Packard Corp., Palo Alto, CA, and Alltel, Little Rock, AR, allows employees at the newly created call center in Chicago and at all branch locations to provide the same information across the bank's three channels of customer contact - in-person branch visits, the Internet and the telephone.

The renovation of the bank's customer service system was implemented in two phases.

In the first phase, which lasted nine months, Alltel Information Services Inc. worked on the company's database while workstations at the new call center were being outfitted with Alltel's Call Center Workstation Application Suite.

The next phase of the renovation, which lasted 60 days, involved adding a computer telephony integration package created by Hewlett Packard.

Customers who call the new center identify themselves to an interactive voice response unit. Information captured by the IVR is relayed to a call center so there are no redundant questions asked of the customer. Newly installed routing technology, combined with the access to more complete information provided by the new database, has helped shorten the time it takes to answer telephone inquiries.

"At the speed we were growing, we needed a viable call center desperately. We are a bank, not IT specialists, so it was a natural decision to turn to companies that could deliver rapidly and reliably," Touza said. "Alltel and HP were able to help us build a call center in less than one year and we continued to work together on enhancement upgrades. They provide the technology that enables our customer service professionals to provide one-call resolution to customer issues."

The call center has a staff of 56 agents and receives an average of 550,000 calls a month. When the call center was first launched six months ago, 60 percent of the calls were transferred to call center agents. Now, only 20 percent of the calls are transferred to agents, and the rest of the queries are handled by interactive voice response technology.

"Satisfaction is the primary benefit," Touza said. "The call center is simply a more efficient way for the customer and the bank to do business together. Technology is the means by which employees perform better and that increases their understanding of, and their ability to satisfy customers."

Alltel and Hewlett-Packard have had a corporate alliance since 1990. Through their alliance, the two companies focus primarily on creating call center technology for the financial industry. n

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