Periphonics Corp. has hired a former Dime Savings Bank of New York technologist to help boost sales of call center technology to the financial services industry.
Thomas E. Gunther, who was director of electronic banking at the big East Coast thrift, said he wants to bring attention to the systems' revenue-generating potential as well as their efficiencies.
Periphonics' approach has been "to provide technology as an expense- saving mechanism," he said. "Newer technologies offer revenue enhancement."
Mr. Gunther will lead marketing to depository institutions, brokerages, and insurance companies. He said he hopes to boost sales to such companies past last year's $40 million, or 36% of total sales.
In the 1970s, Bohemia, N.Y.-based Periphonics was one of the first providers of the interactive voice-response units that most financial institutions and other businesses now use to respond automatically to customer inquiries and requests.
"My experience has been in finding pieces of technology to use to meet a particular objective and melding it into a practical application at a bank," Mr. Gunther said.
He cited a type of computer-telephony integration in Periphonics' new CallSponsor product, which provides a representative with an on-screen history of a customer's calls to the company.
"What was initiated as an information inquiry is turned into a revenue opportunity," Mr. Gunther said.
In the electronic banking effort at Dime Savings in New York City, Mr. Gunther worked on remote-delivery strategies to compete against banking giants like Citicorp and Chase Manhattan Corp. One of his major projects was to combine the functions of automated teller machines and automated loan machines with video banking and Web access through an interactive kiosk.
Periphonics also would use its calling card platform to help companies use their voice systems in entering the prepaid phone card business. Although no financial institutions have signed up yet, Mr. Gunther said he sees revenue opportunities for banks that add telephone services to their credit and debit cards.
"They have the opportunity to generate a revenue stream on cards that are already outstanding," said Mr. Gunther said.
Outside observers say Periphonics is on the right track in trying to enter new markets.
"The financial industry is the one that has used interactive voice response the most," said Donald H. Newman of Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co. in New York.
Financial institutions using Periphonics' voice-response systems include BankAmerica Corp., Mellon Bank Corp., NationsBank Corp.'s credit card services, National Westminster Bank, Toronto-Dominion Bank and its Waterhouse Securities brokerage, Wells Fargo & Co., and Vancouver City Savings Credit Union of Canada.
Rochester Community Savings Bank, a voice-response customer, was among the first to use Periphonics' PeriWeb, which lets a bank link its Web site to a voice-response system without hook-up costs.
Periphonics also collaborated with Nuance Communications in developing speech recognition technology that permits customers of Charles Schwab & Co. and United Parcel Service to place phone orders by speaking rather than pressing keypad buttons.