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Using IP telephony to cut compliance costs Back  
Legislators and regulators around the world have set exacting standards for the sale of financial products and services that can be difficult or costly to apply within traditional call centres. But, explains, IP telephony is creating new opportunities to reduce the costs of achieving compliance.

The internet is a great place to sell financial products and services, but when the customer’s requirements deviate from the norm, there is a need for them to be able to interact with someone equipped to respond.
To do this, financial services companies have built online enquiry forms and ‘chat’ facilities into their web sites, provided ‘Call Me’ buttons to make it easy for the customer to call or simply highlighted a number the customer can call for help and advice. And that is where the problem starts. Faced with a need to prove compliance with a growing number of laws and regulations, from the Data Protection Act 1998 through to Sarbanes Oxley, companies have to ensure that any advice given is both legally compliant and readily accessible.

A key part of the response is, of course, training, but whatever training is required or given, companies still need to constantly monitor that operatives are delivering the right result; listening in to calls at random to be sure the correct procedures are being followed.

Then, in this era of increasing identity theft, there’s the difficult problem of knowing with absolute certainty that you’re talking to Mary Smith or John Doe and not an impostor.

And to prove offers were accepted based on the correct advice, you’ll need to keep a record of every call.
It all makes achieving compliance cumbersome and expensive. The situation is about to change, however, as companies switch to multimedia contact centres based on IP telephony.

A sound investment
Companies are making the move for a number of reasons. First, IP telephony systems are cheaper to operate than conventional phone systems because they use the same network infrastructure as carries information to and from the employee’s computer and other devices.

Second, IP telephony is more flexible. The link between phone numbers and cables is removed, which means any IP phone on a company’s network can be linked to any number. This makes flexible working much easier - employees simply log in to the phone on the desk they are using and their calls are routed to them.

Finally, in IP telephony, calls are carried through the network as packets of data – just like any other form of data. It’s this that makes multimedia contact centres much easier to design and operate, and opens new opportunities to address the challenges of achieving legal and regulatory compliance.
Indeed, IP telephony holds a mine of benefits for businesses in the financial sector.

Because the technology removes the need to physically connect agents’ phones to the call centre switch, employees anywhere on the company’s network can handle calls when the need arises. All they need to do is log in as being available to take calls.

WAV goodbye to analogue
Another benefit is in the area of call recording.

The recording and logging of calls in the analogue world has been a less-than-perfect affair. The recording equipment is specialised and expensive, with long-term tape storage a further expense. Locating specific calls on tapes can also be very time consuming.

However, with IP telephony, calls can be saved digitally as WAV files and logged into a company’s customer database alongside copies of emails, online transactions and other details. Just by clicking on a link on their screen, agents can easily replay an earlier call or go back to any other detail of a company’s relationship with a client. And when it comes to archiving historic data, again only one solution is needed, significantly reducing operational costs.

Listen and learn
Looking further ahead, more valuable opportunities are opening up. To help its own agents comply with the regulations that apply in the telecommunications industry, BT has developed a prototype compliance assistant called Gabrielle.

Based on state of the art speech recognition technology, Gabrielle monitors dialogue between customer and agent, recognising keywords which suggest a topic is being discussed that needs careful handling. To assist, a reminder of the steps to be followed is displayed on the agent’s computer screen.

A trial installation at BT’s Canterbury call centre in the UK reduced the number of compliance failures by 25 per cent and was said to have resulted in the largest improvement in compliance performance since the introduction of CRM.

Similar speech technology can assist in identity verification by assessing the particular pattern of sounds unique to each individual. Systems coming to market take about a minute to create and store a voiceprint, and only a few seconds to check a caller’s identity. While callers are confirming their address or providing other identification details, their speech is captured and analysed, with the resulting voiceprint being compared to that held on file. The systems are language independent and can achieve almost 100 per cent accuracy.

IP telephony is the answer for financial services
Yes - these and other opportunities to reduce compliance costs and improve performance can be exploited without making the switch to IP telephony. But it’s clear they can be applied more readily and economically in an all-digital environment, and that makes the case for financial services businesses to move to IP telephony even more compelling.

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