Abbey trials automated customer service tools

Abbey is running trials of automated customer service technology as part of its plan to open an additional 300 branches in the UK over the next five years.

Abbey is running trials of automated customer service technology as part of its plan to open an additional 300 branches in the UK over the next five years.

The bank, which is implementing the Partenon computing platform from its parent company Santander, said it plans to use technology to improve customers' experience of services in the new branches.

"As we develop and roll out our core IT platforms, we will trial other automated customer services technologies," said the bank. "It is a natural expansion to Abbey's business to add more branches as the IT transformation to Partenon is completed in 2008."

Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) also plans to invest in branch IT systems as it opens 100 new branches over the next five years. "Technology works hand in hand with staff. For example, internet banking drives product sales in branches and vice-versa. Customers like to use both branches and other channels like telephone, online and ATMs," said a spokesman.

Ralph Silva, an analyst at Tower­Group, said banks such as Abbey and HBOS were investing in technology in branches to automate their services and cut their running costs. Automation in branches is reducing the number of mundane jobs, which have added a lot of cost in the past, he said.

"If you look at the new set-up of the branches, the machines come before the people. Customers use the machines at the front for mundane tasks or go to the people at the back for things like mortgages," Silva said.

"The vast majority of profits come from the people at the back of the office and the vast majority of costs come at the front, so people are being replaced by technology here."

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