Bank South Corp. and BellSouth Telecommunications Inc. have entered into a marketing agreement to provide home banking and advanced telephone functions to customers through screen phones.
Subscribers to this package of services will be able to pay bills, transfer funds between accounts, and access account information, such as balances, and the status of outstanding checks, deposits, and loans.
Customers will also have access to a variety of BellSouth telephone features, such as Caller ID Deluxe, which displays the name and number of the calling party, Call Waiting Deluxe, voice messaging, and call forwarding.
Due by Yearend
Officials of the Atlanta-based bank have not yet determined which manufacturer's screen phone will be used. They did report that the phones and service will be available by yearend at all Bank South locations throughout metropolitan Atlanta and Savannah.
Customers will be able to purchase or rent phones, or arrange to pay in installments, with charges appearing on monthly Southern Bell or South Central Bell telephone bills.
One of the BellSouth services being offered through the screen phones - Call Waiting Deluxe -- is being tested by 20 BellSouth and Bank South employees in a trial that began this week in Atlanta.
Call Handling Options
Call Waiting Deluxe lets subscribers see the name and number of an incoming caller, without interrupting their current call, and gives them several call handling options.
For example, the subscriber can answer the call and place the first caller on hold, answer the call and drop the original call, deliver a "please wait" message or send the call to voice mail.
Atlanta-based BellSouth, which provides telecommunications services in the Southeast, plans to roll out Call Waiting Deluxe in selected areas of other cities in Georgia and Alabama beginning in the fourth quarter.
Other Delivery Modes
According to Calvin D. Johnson, Bank South director of electronic banking research and development, customers will eventually be given the option to use other equipment for home banking, such as personal computers, interactive television, or wireless communications devices.
In the future, the bank will offer additional Consumer information services through various business partnerships, he said.
Mr. Johnson said that offering home banking "is not a quantum leap, but a natural evolution" for the bank, which has been providing other types of convenience-related services for years.
Largest ATM Network in Ga.
The $6 billion-asset institution serves the financial needs of businesses and consumers through 140 branches in Georgia, 44 of which are in stores.
The bank also operates Georgia's largest automated teller machine network, with close to 300 units, most in high-volume areas, such as supermarkets.
In addition, the bank already uses voice-response technology to provide telephone banking services, enabling customers to apply for loans and open accounts seven days a week.
More than 600,000 calls are handled each month, said Mr. Johnson.
The home banking and BellSouth services will further meet the needs of "information-hungry" customers, he added.
Display phones are generally considered to be easier to use when accessing financial and telephone services, because they provide visual prompts instead of audio text menus delivered by voice-response units.
'Soft Keys' Added
Screen phones also have so-called soft keys - buttons similar to those found on automated teller machines - which change their function as the user progresses through a service.
The soft keys will give customers improved access to existing BellSouth telephone features, company officials said.
Services such as call waiting are normally activated by pressing the star key, and then a number code, or by depressing the switch hook.
These methods will be replaced by the touch on a button on a screen phone.