AT&T Upgrades Software to Speed Universal Card Service

American Telephone & Telegraph Co. is speeding up service to customers of its highly successful Universal Card with advanced software that links incoming telephone calls to computers that hold cardholder account files.

Over the past two months, AT&T has rolled out the software to 600 representatives in the customer-service center at Universal Card Services, AT&T's credit card division, based in Jacksonville, Fla.

The representatives uses this software to handle the 1.5 million calls they receive annually, speeding the handling of each call by as much as 18 seconds.

The card division estimates it will save half a million dollars in 1992 by improving productivity and reducing the cost of handling calls from customers over its toll-free telephone service line.

Closing in on the Banks

In the year-and-a-half since AT&T introduced its credit card, the division has become the fourth-largest card company and is growing fast.

With seven million accounts, AT&T trails only Citicorp, Chase Manhattan Corp., and First Chicago Corp. This year alone, it has added 2.3 million new accounts.

AT&T is using software from Aristacom International Inc., Alameda, Calif. - called SCIL Link (Switch/Computer Interface Link) - to connect telephone switching equipment with mainframes from International Business Machines Corp.

|Pivotal' System Concept

"This type of system is pivotal to being able to hold onto our customers and to handle the kind of growth we expect," said Kathie S. Miller, telecommunications manager at Universal Card Services.

AT&T expects 2.6 million to 2.8 million accounts by yearend, and company officials think it has a shot at the No. 3 position in total accounts outstanding.

"We're adding accounts at a rate of 200,000 to 300,000 per month," said Bruce Reid, a spokesman.

The software provides a number of functions that combine both voice and data processing, such as allowing customers to call in for account balances.

SCIL Link ties credit card data with information displayed on a customer-service operator's telephone workstation. When a cardholder calls and then keys in a home telephone number, the customer-service operator is presented with a screen detailing the customer's account.

The incoming calls are coordinated so that the customer-service representative's telephone rings just as the client's profile appears on the workstation.

Time-Saving Upgrades

Ms. Miller said AT&T bought the system in order to transfer calls from its automated voice response units that handle the bulk of the company's inquiries, saving 18 seconds in the process, Ms. Miller said.

The software is also used to transfer customer calls between groups of representatives; for example, those handling ordinary inquiries and those with specialized functions such as approval of extensions of credit lines.

Ms. Miller said the unit expects to save 10 seconds each time these transfers take place.

Universal Card Services funds the receivables and markets the credit cards issued by Universal Bank of Georgia, a subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corp., Columbus, Va.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.