Unisys Corp. has added a call-center application to its retail banking software system, FBA Navigator.

About 70 financial institutions worldwide use FBA Navigator to deliver customer information to customer service people in branches and other locations.

The new software will let the banks apply the system to one of banking's most popular delivery channels: the phone.

"The FBA Call Center is an integrated retail delivery strategy that is targeted at financial institutions to give them a common approach across multiple delivery channels," said Richard Sills, program director of integrated retail delivery at Unisys.

"We had a lot of experience of the FBA Navigator in the bank branch, and so we have modified it to be applicable to multiple delivery channels and to have sales and service capability."

Banco de Credito del Peru in Lima uses FBA Navigator at the branch level and is installing the FBA Call Center in its credit card and loan collection areas.

"When we first started branch automation two and a half years ago, our objective was to have an architecture which would allow us use one data base for any interface with the customer," said John Partridge, executive vice president of retail branch systems and operations at Banco de Credito. He found this was possible with the Unisys system, he said.

In February the bank set up a 24-hour FBA Call Center With a budget of $1.2 million that employs 150 agents in three shifts.

At first it recorded 8,000 calls a day, but "in inbound calls we have now seen a 100% increase to 16,000 a day," said Ricardo Bustamante, Banco de Credito's vice president, project development services.

"Our productivity in outbound calls, which records the number of contacts with people, has improved by 60%," he added. He attributed the increase in outbound contact to the predictive-dialing technique, which alerts an agent to the sound of a live human voice at the other end of the line.

Unisys said it was confident of signing two more banks-one in Canada and the other in Brazil-in the next few weeks.

Thanks in part to a development partnership between Blue Bell, Pa.-based Unisys and Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories of San Francisco, the FBA Call Center can let customer service representatives transfer calls and client information screens among themselves.

The software also routes calls to the rep most prepared to take them, supports voice and data conferencing, and does predictive dialing for outbound telemarketing.

Customers who call a center and give personal identification and account numbers are put on hold while the Navigator channel server searches the data base to collect information on them.

The calls are then routed to call-center employees, who can use the screens to help the customers or guide them to buy more bank products.

Banks are increasingly interested in call centers, because they can reduce retail delivery costs.

According to the Tower Group, a Newton, Mass.-based research company, the average call-center transaction costs a bank $1.34. (The figure includes fully automated calls and those that involve customer service people.) By contrast, typical transactions handled through a branch cost $1.60 to $4.20 each.

Call centers also can let banks provide access to personal service over longer hours.

Unisys said it plans to further enhance Navigator with a product that would let banks deliver transaction capabilities over the Internet. The product should be introduced in the fourth quarter, the company said.

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