SafeAmerica CU Finds New Telephone System's Cost Hard To Beat: Free

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PLEASANTON, Calif.-SafeAmerica CU here couldn't say "no" to a new, state-of-the-art Internet telephone suite-after all, it's hard to beat the cost.

"We essentially installed the system for free," said John Gracyalny, VP-IT at the $284-million SafeAmerica CU. "The cost of the system is less than our monthly savings," when the cost is depreciated over five years.

SafeAmerica CU has used the ConvergeIT telephony suite for nearly one year. Provided by Fiserv, the Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) suite is integrated with the CU's core processing system, Fiserv DataSafe, and also provides call center functionality.

Better yet, the platform is secure for all inbound and outbound calls-something credit unions using VoIP couldn't say just two years ago (see related story).

"VoIP security has certainly increased and become tighter," said Terry Gillin, ConvergeIT Product Manager. ConvergeIT encrypts all voice traffic and can block "denial-of-service" attacks as well as selected area codes. It can detect unusual activity and automatically shut down the communication, Gillin said.

SafeAmerica protects its local-area network and wide-area network from Internet attacks using "various technologies," Gracyalny said.

When a call from a member is transferred to a service representative, the member's account information instantly appears on-screen, he continued. That's because ConvergeIT's call center capabilities and integration to the DataSafe core allow members to identify themselves by entering their member number at the beginning of a call.

"We have improved our response time and the member experience, as a member calling in doesn't have to wait while the call center staff enters the member number and for the system to display the account," explained Gracyalny. "That also translates into a more efficient call center staff."

Each call has been shortened by 30 to 60 seconds because member accounts are instantly displayed, he estimated.

How The Costs Add Up

SafeAmerica saves about $1,800 per month using ConvergeIT over its previous legacy environment, which carried higher maintenance and line charges, Gracyalny said. About one-third of that savings results from transferring "significantly" fewer overflow calls to the CU's third-party call center provider. Now overflow calls can be transferred to any available employee.

"We can transfer calls between admin and the branches, and between branches," said Gracyalny. "It's like an in-house back-up to our call-center."

The 60 employees at SafeAmerica headquarters and six remote branches use a total of 80 Internet protocol (IP) handsets, which, when configured by ConvergeIT, allow headquarters and branches to be on the same phone system. From a desktop computer, employees can manage calls, click to dial, transfer calls and manage personal queues.

SafeAmerica receives an average of 27,000 inbound calls and makes an average of 8,000 outbound calls per month, Gracyalny said.

Although ConvergeIT offers interactive voice-response (IVR) technology to help members access account information, SafeAmerica isn't using it-yet. "We just did a major upgrade on IVR less than a year before purchasing the ConvergeIT PBX."

SafeAmerica retained some analog lines, Gracyalny said. "We continue to use legacy business lines for our security systems and to provide a 'red phone' emergency voice line to each remote branch in case of power failures. Legacy lines are self-powered and will continue to work when the power goes out."

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