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Countrywide improves its mortgage service.

As one of the fastest growing independent mortgage bankers, Countrywide Funding Corp. in Pasadena, Calif., was looking for a more efficient way to serve customers when they call for loan information.

In a short period of time, largely because of falling interest rates, the company doubled the number of loans it was servicing. Countrywide originated a record $12 billion in mortgage loans in fiscal 1992.

The increasing number of mortgages translated into an increasing number of calls to Countrywide's headquarters. New homeowners, as well as Countrywide's existing customer base, wanted quick and easy access to mortgage data so they could plan financial budgets and tax returns.

Countrywide was having a difficult time because it had three different systems processing calls, taking messages and retrieving account information from databases. Two of the systems performed call processing and voice messaging, and a third system was an interactive voice response (IVR) unit that answered callers' database inquiries.

Callers on four different 800 lines often had to be switched from system to system to obtain the information they were seeking. For example, customers who called in on one line for data-base information about their loan payoff had to be told to call another 800 number if they wanted to talk to a customer service agent.

Many callers were frustrated and dropped out of the system. Some never called back.

"Countrywide was outgrowing the three systems," says Margaret Biggs, the company's administrator of system support. "Our customers were confused because they were being passed around to find information they needed. We had to find a better way to serve our customers because, in our business, better customer service gives us an advantage over our competition."

After evaluating a number of systems, Countrywide's telecomm department implemented a VMX Integrated Voice Processing (IVP) platform with VMXworks to effectively handle the company's huge volume of information-seeking calls. The IVP platform is a powerful and highly integrated system with enough capacity to meet Countrywide's growing needs. VMXworks is a family of software products consisting of system software, connectivity software and application development tools.

The availability of a single platform solution allowed Countrywide to replace its three systems with a multifunction system capable of performing call processing, voice messaging and IVR. The platform features the flexibility to create customer-specific applications, called Worksolutions. Worksolutions can be created either by certified third-party application developers, or customers themselves.

Countrywide worked closely with Kathy Kelso, an account executive, to implement the system. A Worksolution, designed by DRT Systems LP, gives customers fast and easy access to loan information contained in a database on Countrywide's mainframe computer. Now, loan information is available to customers 24 hours a day.

To access their accounts, customers simply call a single toll-free number and enter their account code from a touchtone phone, followed by their social security number. The application provides callers with a menu of choices for each request for information.

For example, they can enter selections to hear information about monthly payments, loan balance, interest payments or payoff information. If they require additional information, they can always transfer to a customer service agent, leave a message if their agent is unavailable to take the call, or dial 0 to reach the operator during business hours. Everything is accomplished during a single phone call.

Instead of having to call multiple numbers, customers can receive a variety of information in one phone call, without hanging up and re-dialing.

According to Biggs, customers were notified about the new voice processing system well in advance of installation through letters and flyers, and couldn't wait for the implementation.

"They were very anxious to receive year-end account information for their tax returns. Our phones started ringing off the hook just after midnight on New Year's eve, minutes after the system was up and running.

Calls double

With the IVP platform installed at corporate headquarters in Pasadena, Countrywide is processing about 1,500 calls a day, more than double the number it received before, with no increase in customer service agents.

The transition went smoothly. Countrywide plans to implement additional Worksolutions on the same IVP platform.

"The potential for new customer service applications is virtually unlimited," Biggs says. "The platform can process our customer calls and is capable of multiple applications. Another important benefit of the system is that it's easier to maintain then three separate units. As a result, Countrywide now has a cost-effective solution that enhances our competitive position."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Countrywide Funding Corp. installs VMX Integrated Voice Processing
Publication:Communications News
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:737
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