When Charles Schwab & Co. needed a faster way to process the 300,000 customer service calls it receives every day, the discount brokerage firm hired a software firm to integrate its telephone and computer systems. As a result, Schwab's new service system has shaved 15 to 20 seconds off each customer call, boosting the productivity of its sales representatives by 10 percent.

The system-designed by San Francisco-based Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, Inc.-reduces the amount of time wasted obtaining customer information and routes inquiries to the appropriate sales reps. Genesys's computer-telephony integration (CTI) is an open platform that forms the basis for a multimedia call center. Customers can access information using the telephone, video and the Internet.

At Schwab, the CTI enables customers to enter their account number and select the type of transaction they wish to perform. Clients call to execute a financial transaction, get account data, discuss monthly statements, or get information about specific companies. The CTI allows the discount broker to be more efficient with what it has, says Jim Scholl, director of voice technology at Schwab, which has 3.9 million active customer accounts. "There's less time getting up to speed."

The process of screening customer calls and automatically sending them to the correct sales rep-intelligent routing-also saves on 800-number costs and reduces aggravation for time-pressed customers.

Although any firm needing real-time customer data can use the CTI technology to process accounts faster while the customer is on the phone, banks favor the CTI system as an outbound dialing product in telemarketing operations.

Implementation of the CTI technology takes three to six months and costs approximately $500 per sales rep.

-mulhern tfn.com

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