Finance firm overcomes supplier impasse

Communications problems are bad for any company, but for a financial services firm they can be business-critical.

Communications problems are bad for any company, but for a financial services firm they can be business-critical.

Cetelem UK was having severe problems with the systems used in its contact centres. Cetelem offers consumer credit worldwide, with companies such as Dixons using it to arrange interest-free credit for customers.

The company runs contact centres at Coventry and Warrington in the UK, and an operations centre in Paris. It found its call centre technology was starting to let callers down. The company had a 3Com private branch exchange call system using voice over IP linked to a customer relationship management system designed to deal with calls efficiently, but found calls started to be dropped following peak trading in December 2001.

The problems continued through 2002, with calls being dropped, calls not being put in the right position in the queue, calls being pushed randomly to agents, and calls even being sent to agents not working that day.

John Morris, head of IT at Cetelem, said, "The two main technology suppliers had reached an impasse and one or both had to be replaced - although the suppliers were partners, it became clear they could not work together to offer an upgrade."

Cetelem was using Version 4.027 of the Apropos software, although Apropos had only certified V4.022. Some of the problems may have been solved if Cetelem could have upgraded to V4.1, and at the same time introducing voice recording, automated dialling and other new features.

However, this configuration was not certified by Apropos, Morris said. Cetelem did not want to risk another uncertified software package.

During this time 3Com and Apropos decided to go their separate ways. Morris said, "Apropos gave us six month's notice of ending the support of our system."

Support was scheduled to end in August 2003, so the company put out a tender for a new system. 3Com submitted a bid based on its own hardware in combination with CRM software from Interactive Intelligence, which included the new features Cetelem wanted as standard. Avaya, Apropos and Aspect also bid.

Cetelem chose to stay with 3Com along with its new software partner. The new system has been used successfully since late last year.

Morris said, "The new system has worked fine after some initial problems with reporting. It has helped to increase efficiency among our 200 agents.

"The call recording function paid for itself by January, screen pop-ups give agents instant information on customers, and supervisors like the call routing."

Read more on Business applications