Absa telephone banking system revamp a success

Absa has witnessed an 8% increase in its telephone banking call volumes after significant enhancements were made to their telephone banking’s IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system

August 5, 2011

Absa’s telephone banking system was improved in direct response to growing customer need for seamless service.

“We believe more calls have passed through our Call Centre after customers realised that our innovative telephone banking channel enhances customer experience. We have subsequently introduced the latest IVR system that is highly convenient. Telephone banking at Absa is now readily available through a ‘one-call resolution’,” says Gavin Opperman, the Chief Executive of Absa Retail Bank.

The upgrading of the existing telephone banking service was done with affordability and financial inclusion in mind. “It is cheaper for a customer to transact on the IVR system. Some transactions can cost up to 50% less,” he says.

Opperman says that IVR systems run on computers. They manage large numbers of incoming phone calls and provide callers with a range of automated options that include, for example, allowing callers to report specific events or to obtain specific information. IVR systems are very efficient and very useful as information can be gathered and distributed in greater volume.

“It is usually faster and more cost-effective than that which we have experienced in Call Centre technology before,” Opperman says.

Among some of the improvements to Absa’s recently developed IVR system are a new identity as the Bank’s Telephone Banking and Internet support caller line, a new voice persona for both English and Afrikaans, simple and easy to understand language, streamlined navigation with reduced main menu options and easy migration to a real voice interface.

“With the improvements, unless customers require a Call Centre agent to assist them to transact, they can merely call 08600 08600. Callers will be put through to the main self-help menu to conduct their banking through a fully automated system and without having to queue,” states Opperman.

Absa has broken new ground, pioneering its new IVR system as the first bank to offer a “live human” interface in conjunction with a 24/7 self-service telephone banking solution.

“Additionally, although Absa’s Telephone Banking option is primarily offered in English and Afrikaans, upon request customers can be assisted and serviced in all official South African languages,” says Opperman.

“As a customer-centred organisation, the emphasis is on making telephone banking effortless, faster and an affordable alternative to branch banking,” he says.

In South Africa, the transition from branch to telephone banking has not been easy.  Many customers still prefer the one-to-one relationships that are built up with branch staff.

The increase in call volumes that we are experiencing can be seen as a positive sign that consumers are using and moving towards fast, effortless self-help functionalities, especially when conducting cashless banking. The challenge remains to convince the consumer to migrate to the bank’s digital channels for faster, cheaper and more convenient 24/7 service,” Opperman says.

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