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Compliance: No Longer a Tough Call
IP telephony is creating new opportunities to reduce the costs of achieving compliance.
Posted Jan 1, 2006
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Legislators and regulators around the world have set exacting standards for the sale of financial products and services that can be difficult or costly to apply within traditional call centers. While the Internet is a great place to sell financial products and services, when customers' needs deviate from the norm, they must be able to interact with someone equipped to respond. To address this need, financial services companies have built online inquiry forms and chat facilities into their Web sites, provided call-me buttons to make it easy for the customer to call, or simply highlighted a number the customer can call for help and advice. And that is where the problem starts. Faced with a need to prove compliance with a growing number of laws and regulations, such as SarBox, companies have to ensure that any advice given is both legally compliant and readily accessible. A key part of the response is, of course, training. Financial services staff must be sure they know what can be sold to whom, and how. In some cases, they'll also need to have passed specific examinations. But whatever training is given or required, you'll need to check that it's delivering the right result, and that means you'll have to listen in on calls at random to be sure the correct procedures are being followed. And to prove offers were accepted based on the correct advice, you'll need to keep a record of every call. It all makes achieving compliance cumbersome and expensive. The situation is about to change, however, as companies switch to multimedia contact centers based on IP telephony. A sound investment Companies are making the move for a number of reasons. First, IP telephony systems are cheaper to operate than conventional phone systems because they use the same network infrastructure that carries information to and from the employee's computer and other devices. Second, IP telephony is more flexible. The link between phone numbers and wires is removed, which means any IP phone on a company's network can be linked to any number. This makes flexible work arrangements much easier--employees simply log in to the phone on the desk they are using and their calls are automatically routed to them. Because the technology removes the need to physically connect agents' phones to the call center switch, employees anywhere on the company's network can handle calls when the need arises. All they need to do is log in as being available to take calls.
Finally, with IP telephony, calls are carried through the network as packets of data--just like any other form of data. It's this that makes multimedia contact centers much easier to design and operate, and opens new opportunities to address the challenges of achieving legal and regulatory compliance. WAV goodbye to analog Another benefit is in the area of call recording. The recording and logging of calls in the analog world has been a less-than-perfect affair. In anything other than a small contact center, the equipment needed to create the recordings is specialized and expensive. And the tapes that are produced need to be stored carefully--often for many years. The real problem, though, comes when you attempt to go back to a specific call. The customer's records may show when the call was made, based on which you can locate the right tape in the archive. But then you have to scan through the tape to find the actual call--a time consuming, labor-intensive process. With IP telephony, calls can be saved digitally as WAV files and logged into a company's customer database alongside copies of emails, online transactions, and other details. Just by clicking on a link on their screen, agents can easily replay an earlier call or go back to any other detail of a company's relationship with a client. And when it comes to archiving historic data, again only one solution is needed, which significantly reduces operating costs. Yes--these and other opportunities to reduce compliance costs and improve performance can be exploited without making the switch to IP telephony. But it's clear they can be applied more readily and economically in an all-digital environment, and that makes the case for financial services businesses to move to IP telephony even more compelling. About the Author Robert Booker is vice president, security solutions for BT Americas. Visit www.BT.com
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