Contrary to expectation, call centers will not be the lynchpin of bank- customer communications, according to as yet unpublished research findings by Gartner. Bank calls that are now automatically directed to a call center will increasingly be handled by the customer's local branch, the Stamford, CT- based research firm suggests.

"That's not to say that call centers will diminish in importance," says Brad Adrian, senior research analyst in Gartner's financial services practice, in Durham, NC. "In fact, call volumes will increase in the next few years." The difference, he says, is that banks are also attempting to give branch personnel access to the same information that customer service representatives in call centers now have.

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