• May 1, 2006
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Crediting Speech

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Australia's St. George Bank understands the value of listening to its customers. The financial institution, which has been praised for its Internet banking platform, used multiple IVR voices on its phone lines, and as a result lacked the ability to present a single voice to its customers. The bank also presented deep menus for customers to navigate through. "Customers were not complaining about the difference in the voices with the auto attendants, but they were certainly complaining about use of the [dual tone multiple frequency]," says Fiona Keough, manager of operations and personal banking at St. George. Antoine Casgrain, head of customer contact centers for St. George, adds: "They felt like they were being transferred because they would go from one voice to a very different voice in the middle of the conversation with the IVR or the auto attendant." Looking to deliver one voice to the customer while minimizing call transfers and improving satisfaction with its voice channel, the bank enhanced its IVR capabilities with speech. A prerequisite for the solution, however, was the ability to integrate cleanly with St. George's existing IVR platform, IBM WebSphere Voice Response. After evaluating several solutions, the bank selected partners it has good relationships with--IBM and Call Design, an organization that specializes in the design, implementation, management, and ongoing support of call and contact centers. "St. George Bank was the second customer in this part of the world to implement IBM's Direct Talk and that was back in 1991," says Brett Redman, director at Call Design. "I was responsible for part of that implementation. We know their existing IBM WebSphere Voice Response IVR platform inside out." St. George went live in May 2004 with IBM's WebSphere Voice Server middleware. "IBM's methodology for creating a speech user interface ensures that customers both save time and enjoy the experience of interacting with the bank, and this is reflected in the gain in customer satisfaction ratings for the application," says Phillip Dermody, Ph.D., solution specialist, WebSphere Conversational Access. "By having IBM specialists concentrate on the development of a persona for the application along with a very efficient speech user interface we were able to rebrand the voice channel to improve the customer experience and benefit the bank." Since going live in May 2004, customer satisfaction with the auto attendant functionality has increased 5 percentage points to 85 percent, call transfers have dropped by about 33 percent, and average handle time has fallen by 40 seconds. The number of complaints has decreased from about five per week to about one a month, according to Casgrain. Enhanced staff satisfaction was another by-product of the deployment. "[Reps] do not have to put up with customers complaining that they pushed the right button, [but ended] up in the wrong place," Keough says. The ability to sidestep nonrevenue- generating calls was also particularly attractive in the sales area. "[Reps] are very happy campers right now." The Payoff By incorporating speech into its self-service initiative, St. George Bank:
  • reduced the number of call transfers by about 33 percent;
  • decreased average handle time by 40 percent;
  • increased customer satisfaction from 80 percent to 85 percent; and
  • decreased complaints from about five a week to about one a month.
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