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ING Direct banks on Call Centre Technology

~ Avaya 'virtual' contact centre system supports customer service excellence for 750,000 UK account holders ~

ING Direct, the world's leading direct savings bank, has just implemented an Avaya contact centre system with the help of Call Centre Technology (CCT). Avaya is a leading global provider of business communications software, systems & services.

The system will enable ING Direct to further enhance the quality of customer service it provides to UK account holders.

The system links the bank's Reading headquarters and new Cardiff site to create a single 'virtual' contact centre with enough capacity to meet the demand of its growing business. It is based on core technology from Avaya and integrates IP telephony applications, skills-based routing and management software to optimise contact centre productivity, efficiency and performance. The solution also features a highly resilient architecture ensuring service continuity in the event of a failure or fault.

The virtual contact centre will enable ING Direct to make more efficient use of resources and ensure high service standards are met consistently, even during peak periods. The bank currently handles up to 15,000 calls a day that are categorised into account holders and potential customers. Skills-based routing software is used to intelligently connect callers to the most appropriately skilled agent to handle their enquiry, enabling ING Direct to provide an enhanced customer experience as well as handle a higher volume of calls. The contact centre system is also linked to the bank's in-house CRM system, allowing customer information to be automatically 'popped up' on screen to save time, enabling agents to deal with enquiries more quickly and effectively.

ING Direct is active in eight countries and to-date has over 12 million customers. It launched operations in the UK in May 2003 and now has over 750,000 account holders. ING Direct is part of ING (International Netherlands Group), which is one of the world's largest financial services organisations, operating in 60 countries with over 115,000 employees.

The number of new customers has grown very rapidly. ING Direct decided to expand its contact centre operations in Reading and open a new site in Cardiff to ensure it could continue to provide an exacting level of service to its rapidly increasing customer base. It selected CCT to design and implement the infrastructure for its Cardiff site and upgrade its existing systems at its Reading headquarters.

The Cardiff and Reading offices are linked by a high-speed Wide Area Network supporting IP telephony. Voice calls effectively 'ride for free' over the data network, allowing calls to be seamlessly routed between sites at no extra cost to the caller or ING Direct. This allows all available customer service agents to be treated as a single, 'virtual' resource, irrespective of where they are actually located. ING Direct can distribute calls across its sites to ensure agent time and productivity is optimised.

Linking the two sites will also enable the bank to ensure availability of services in case of system failure or disaster at either office. All customer data is mirrored between the sites and incoming calls can be automatically re-directed.

The contact centre solution is fully integrated with ING Direct's Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. The IVR system, based on a J2EE application server, enables the bank to authenticate callers and provide them with an automated self-service facility to administer their account from balance checks to requesting new PIN numbers. Customers using the IVR service can opt to be connected to an agent at any point during their call. The self-service facility gives account holders a greater degree of flexibility to choose how they want to bank.

The contact centre solution supports a range of inbound numbers, allowing ING Direct to use a different telephone number for each of its marketing campaigns, including TV and print advertising, and direct mail. This means response levels for each campaign can be easily tracked, enabling ING Direct to analyse the effectiveness of its campaigns and improve future ones.

CCT pre-staged elements of the solution at its test labs in Bristol to ensure successful implementation. It also based an engineer on-site during the entire project to provide dedicated support to ING Direct's IT team.

"Customer service is one of ING Direct's key differentiators in an extremely competitive market," said Vincent Chatard, IT Director at ING Direct. "It was absolutely critical, therefore, that there was no service interruption during the implementation as it could have had a major impact on our business. We operate a high-demand service and upgrading our existing systems and linking in our new Cardiff site was like changing jet engines in mid-flight."

"We chose CCT because it has an excellent track record in delivering complex contact centre solutions and demonstrated a clear understanding of our project needs. The level of support we received during each phase of the implementation was really good. We now have a highly flexible state-of-the-art facility that will enable us to continue to provide the level of service ING Direct has become synonymous with," added Chatard.

"Customer service is increasingly becoming a key differentiator, especially in highly competitive markets such as financial services and retail," said Russell Attwood, CEO at CCT. "Any service interruption, therefore, can have a significant impact on reputation and loyalty. A distributed IP architecture, such as ING's, can provide both the essential resiliency and flexibility to deliver great service. Business continuity should be a critical part of any design and Avaya offers some of the most robust and reliable technology on the market."

Components of the highly resilient contact centre design include a pair of dual processor Avaya S8700 Media Servers in the new Cardiff site, with Avaya Media Gateways attached. The new facility, scaled for a capacity to evolve to three times the initial seating, is linked across the WAN to ING's Reading headquarters, where the original Avaya DEFINITY Communications Server has been replaced by a mirror of the Cardiff implementation. The solution runs Avaya Communications Manager 2.0 and includes Avaya's Call Management System (CMS).