Credit union unifies its communications

New England Credit Union has blended a PBX and Microsoft's Office Communications Server to create an innovative solution.

New England Credit Union (NECU) will soon deploy a unified communications solution in order to improve customer service and reduce operating costs.

NECU is Australia’s largest inland regional community credit union, boasting more than 51,000 members and an asset base of more than $500 million. The organisation is spread across multiple branches, some of which exist in remote rural areas.

The unified communications system - from Nortel and Microsoft - is expected to save the company a minimum of $100,000 a year through a combination of increased productivity, reduced travel time and time-saving functionality.

Prior to this deployment, NECU suffered from a disorganised telephony system.

“One of our main challenges is locating the right person in our organisation to answer a customer query in a timely manner and then being able to contact them directly,” says David Cook, chief information officer at NECU.

This was highlighted by a recent report produced by the credit union. The report found that 20% of the company’s contact centre agents’ time was spent tracking down the right person to field a specific customer inquiry.

The solution centres on Nortel’s Communications Server (CS) 1000, a unified communications IP PBX that integrates with Microsoft’s Office Communications Server. It includes features such as unified messaging, presence, IM and voice and video calls from the desktop.

The IP PBX is accessible to all of NECU’s branches over the company’s wide area network, supported by Nortel’s ERS 5520s at NECU’s head office and business continuity locations.

The solution also incorporates Nortel’s 1140E IP handsets at select locations, although the majority of calls will take place using Microsoft Office Communicator softphones. NECU’s incumbent contact centre technology will be replaced by Nortel’s Contact Centre 6.0 platform to provide integration with the new unified communications functionality.

The solution will also help NECU to go green, as Cook explains: “It was also obvious that we were speaking the same language when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint through energy-efficient technology and cutting back on unnecessary travel.”

The company will also experience savings on its operating costs.

“It was also an easy sell to my CFO,” Cook says. “The operational savings we’ve calculated as a result of implementing this technology are substantial. Delivering significant customer service enhancement more efficiently will have lasting benefits on both our top and bottom line.”

NECU had already deployed a Tandberg video conferencing system. Naturally, the company wanted to make use of its existing assets, so interoperability was a key concern when choosing a unified communications system.

“What we needed was a technology solution that would leverage our prior investment in a company-wide videoconferencing system with new capability to unify voice, video and customer information, and provide personalised customer contact with improved customer service,” Cook says.

The new system will integrate with the Tandberg system to enable video-to-the-desktop and click-to-call video conferencing.

NECU also made sure the two elements comprising the new solution could talk to one another. Cook says the Nortel communication network integrates directly with Microsoft’s Office Communications Server software, making specific information about the company’s resources available to all its branches.

“This gives us an incredibly powerful platform for connecting our people with our customers in a variety of different ways - through audio, video, text and IM - and ensures that regardless of where our customers are located, we have the resources available to serve them,” Cook says.

Beyond this specific deployment, the company has further plans for unified communications.

“We’re already looking past the initial implementation to the next phase of the project, which will extend the reach of our video-enabled unified communications services to our customers through the web,” says Cook.

“This will give customers direct access to our consultants through the video conferencing system, presenting them with a new way of communicating directly with our staff without having to leave their homes.”

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