Abbey rolls out virtual call centre on IP infrastructure to boost customer service

An ambitious programme of IT investment by high street bank Abbey demands tight project management to deliver cost savings and...

An ambitious programme of IT investment by high street bank Abbey demands tight project management to deliver cost savings and higher levels of service.

High street bank Abbey is planning to deploy a virtual call centre running over its IP network in a bid to improve its customer service.

Abbey has deployed an IP- based network to support banking services, customer relationship management and IP telephony as part of the bank's £125m refresh of its branch networks. The IP network was completed in October 2003. Abbey is now rolling out applications, one of which is a virtual call centre, which will enhance business continuity provision and improve the flexibility of its customer service.

Abbey aims to standardise its call centre technology to allow its agents to work from any location. The project, due to be completed by the end of 2005, will also support the new business structure of the bank.

"The holy grail is to enable any agent in any location to support the customer," said Bill Gibbons, director of technology services and support at Abbey. "As part of this you can enhance business continuity and disaster recovery because you can spread all your calls and ensure there is no single physical point of failure."

Gibbons declined to estimate the potential cost savings from the call centre overhaul but Computer Weekly understands that savings are likely to be £10m or more, in line with those achieved with other large IT projects at Abbey.

Other benefits of the new call centre infrastructure, according to Gibbons, include a simplification of IT, which will improve service levels; easier integration between applications; and being able to respond more quickly to the demands of the business.

The call centre overhaul is due to be completed by the end of 2005. It will be run as a managed service and use a virtual private network from BT Transform, which was installed in just five months last year.

The VPN project involved 7,000 site visits to replace leased lines, ISDN and ASDL with an IP VPN that can carry both data and voice traffic. It supports 750 branches and 750,000 internal calls in addition to 1.2 million calls from the public every month.

The internal telephone network is also being replaced by IP telephony running between branches over the VPN.

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