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VISA U.S.A. REACHES CUSTOMER SERVICE MILESTONE

 SAN FRANCISCO, March 3 /PRNewswire/ -- One year after its introduction the Visa Automated Referral Service (ARS) has logged its 1 millionth call. ARS, a patented service developed and implemented in the United States by Visa in April 1992, increases customer service quality at the point-of-sale by automating the referral process for all Visa transactions.
 "The industry's support of the service exceeded our initial expectations," said Robert H. Miller, senior vice president, Visa U.S.A. "Not only have we cut referral response time in half, but we've also set a standard for other bankcard companies to follow." Miller said the performance of the Automated Referral Service and the competitive advantage it provides to member banks, their merchants and the Visa brand were widely recognized as industry achievements.
 (When a merchant requests an electronic authorization to accept a bankcard, the card's issuing bank replies with one of three responses -- "approve," "decline" or "call." "Call" is a response generated when additional information from the cardholder or merchant is needed to approve the transaction, and is used to control credit and fraud risk. Referrals usually occur for high-dollar amount transactions; near- or over-credit limit situations; or to ensure the identity of the cardholder for suspicious transactions.)
 The Visa Automated Referral Service provides merchant banks with a single toll-free telephone number that is used to route the merchant's referral call to the appropriate Visa card-issuing bank. The 1-800 number is answered by a computer switch that prompts the caller to enter the card number. Using this information the ARS switch quickly routes the call to the issuing bank. If the issuer is unavailable to answer, the call is automatically transferred to a Visa backup center that provides stand-in authorization on the issuer's behalf up to pre-defined limits. Over the past year, nearly $50 million in additional transactions were authorized by the backup center.
 Visa is the first and only bankcard to offer this enhanced level of automated service and streamlined card acceptance. Other bankcards require merchant banks to use a printed directory of issuing bank phone numbers to place the referral call. This manual process averages 8-10 minutes, causing cardholders and merchants to wait for a response with no guarantee of an authorization decision. Because of the delays inherent in the referral authorization process, merchants often decline the transactions without placing the referral call. Since 90 percent of all referral calls result in approvals, ignored referrals mean lost sales.
 Miller also said the Visa U.S.A. Service Enhancements group that developed the ARS program is currently working on a number of upgrades to further improve referral call response rates as well as the handling of international referrals.
 Visa is the largest consumer payment card system in the world with more than 10 million acceptance locations and 296 million cards issued worldwide, including 146 million in the United States. Visa also has the leading global ATM network.
 -0- 3/3/93
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: ARS flow chart available upon request./
 /CONTACT: Albert Coscia of Visa U.S.A., 415-570-2039/


CO: Visa U.S.A. ST: California IN: FIN SU:

TM -- SF007 -- 2275 03/03/93 08:07 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Mar 3, 1993
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