Equifax, Atlanta, has cut call lengths on inbound consumer calls to its check services division through the addition of computer telephony integration technology.
Retailers use Equifax's check services division to verify the credit history of customers who wish to pay by check. By law, customers whose checks are turned down by a retailer at point-of-sale based on information supplied by Equifax must be provided with avenues where they can quickly find more information on why their checks were refused. To comply with this law, Equifax's retail clients keep cards with Equifax's toll-free consumer information number at the register to give to customers whose checks are refused.
“We have a voice response unit in place to give responses to people as to why they were turned down, but sometimes people still want to speak to a live agent,” said Jeff Carbiener, senior vice president and general manager of Equifax's check services division.
Through the addition of CallSPONSOR, a CTI product from Periphonics Corp., Bohemia, NY, the company was able to avoid making customers repeat information to a live attendant that they already gave to the company's voice response unit. The software links the IVR to the mainframe so when customers ask to speak to a live attendant, the information they have already provided to the IVR — such as their names, and the names and locations of the store where their checks were refused — is automatically transferred to the agent's desktop.
The technology has resulted in a cut in call times by an average of 50 seconds per call, according to Sherri Travis, systems analyst to the project.
“It cuts down call time, so it saves us costs on that side, but it also has a benefit to the consumer because consumers are already somewhat upset that they've been turned down at the point of sale. This improves their service on the phone,” said Carbiener.
The company tested the software at five call stations through November. Earlier this month, it rolled the software out in full for use with all 70 agents at its call center in St. Petersburg, FL.
Equifax receives approximately 5,000 calls a day, 40 percent to 60 percent of which are transferred to live agents. The software is expected to be particularly useful in the peak of the holiday season when inbound call volume can increase by 70 percent.
The company expects its own improved customer service to translate into a benefit to its retail clients, because many customers whose checks are refused associate the service they get from Equifax with the stores where their checks were denied.
“When we decline a check, though we are dealing with the customer directly, consumers have little recourse against Equifax, but they can stop going to the store,” said Ron Garmon, vice president of operations.
Added Carbiener, “Their first call is to us, the second is to the store's customer service line.”