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On Account of Voice Messaging, Bank Puts Stop to Telephone Tag.

The Texas Commerce Bank is the 20th largest in the US in terms of assets and the 12th largest bank in terms of earnings. The bank's holding company employs more than 8,000 employees, has 69 member banks and boasts total deposits exceeding $14 billion.

Every day, the data from all transactions--every deposit, withdrawal, check, loan payment, ledger entry and new account--is sent to one of the bank's 15 satellite processing centers around the state. They, in turn, send the transactions to one of the three main processing centers in Austin, Dallas or Houston. The information is processed and sent back to the individual banks the next morning.

Management Needs Coordination

A great deal of coordination is necessary between all the participants to successfully accomplish this high-speed processing. Managers at each level must be able to contact each other quickly. Officers of Texas Commerce Bank (TCB) felt that a voice-messaging system could increase the effectiveness of communication between managers, assisting them in controlling their processing network.

A study was conducted to determine the benefits of implementing a voice store-and-forward system. During the study, the bank considered four such systems produced by different vendors.

A pilot test was conducted using one of the systems. Although it was successful the test also helped TCB management determine that a system in the $50,000-to-$60,000 price range was most appropriate. Since the pilot-test system cost more than this, it was not acceptable.

Then the bank's staff investigated VoiceMemo, Centigram's voice-messaging system, which was tested using just a few voice mailboxes. The test was successful enough that TCB took a system on trial for 30 days, and subsequently found that it met the bank's requirements. The vendor and TCB then worked together to come up with a system configuration that would fit TCB's budget. The selected system was purchased for around $50,000.

TCB charges its VoiceMemo users $7.65 a month, which comes out of each user's departmental telecommunications budget. The $7.65 is based on dividing the number of users into the system cost using a five-year depreciation period. Every month, communication costs are tracked for each user's department. The usage charges received are netted against the actual depreciation.

Voice-Mail Serves Data Group

As expected, based on the initial benefits study, the Data Services Group is the heaviest user of the system because of the needs for up-to-the-minute communication between managers of the central data-services department and managers of the individual banks and satellite processing centers.

Each Manager Leaves Reports

Data Services is the group in charge of processing the transaction data that comes through daily from satellite offices. Now, using VoiceMemo, the satellite managers can leave reports in the voice mailboxes of their respective data-service managers. Each data-services manager can respond, even from out of town. These managers can access their voice messages from any pushbutton phone, 24 hours a day, from anywhere in the world.

Managers can now communicate with each other, sometimes for days at a time, without actually holding a "real-time" conversation. For example, two managers were interviewing a job candidate over the holidays. They discussed the candidate by passing voice messages back and forth. Using voice-mail, they were able to come to a decision without a person-to-person discussion. Managers respond to each other's messages at their convenience, without disrupting other activities.

The data-services central office has three managers who travel at least half of the time. Before installing the VoiceMemo system, calls had to be routed to a secretary when these three managers went out of town. The extra calls added to the secretary's already heavy workload, and were especially irksome because the most-typical message simply requests a return call. This type of message is more of an inconvenience than a help; nothing can be accomplished until the phone call is returned and a person-to-person connection is made.

A voice message, on the other hand, contains information--information that can be responded to, or acted upon. After action is taken, a new voice message can verify that the task is complete.

Mangers now get detailed, confidential voice messages that can be accessed in minutes from any pushbutton phone. The satellite managers know that the data-services managers are more accessible, and the data-services managers can check in frequently, leaving answers or suggestions in satellite managers' mailboxes.

Those who must travel know that they are now more accessible in case of a problem. And they can make 10 VoiceMemo calls in the time it takes to make one or two regular, conversational phone calls. There's no waiting on hold, and no need to spell everything out for a message-taker. When a person is running to catch a plane, a few minutes can make a big difference.

Each Communicates More Now

Managers tend to communicate more effectively now, because it's so easy to pick up the phone, leave the information for another manager, and cross that item off one's list of things to do. Now, managers interact more and are better informed.

Voice-mail has also helped the bank's secretarial staff. There are typically three or four managers, and several other professionals, per secretary. TCB feels that the new system has made secretaries more productive in the same way that word processing has made them more productive--it has eliminated redundant, unnecessary work. Many users have their calls forwarded to the VoiceMemo system, so messages can be received without tying up a secretary. Users can also forward a call, complete with additional comments, to someone else in the bank.

User Sets Up Distribution Lists

Each manager has a number of distribution lists that he or she sets up in a few minutes. These lists can be used to send voice messages to as many as 125 people at one time, just by pressing the right buttons on the phone. The return-receipt feature tells the manager who has heard the memo and who hasn't.

VoiceMemo can be operated with a few commands that are easily remembered: "P" plays messages, "K" keeps messages, "D" discards messages, "M" makes messages, "A" answers messages, and so on. There are only nine letter commands, and since each one corresponds to the action taken, users quickly get accustomed to the system and don't have to wait for the system to prompt them.

One Changes Greeting Anytime

Users can change their recorded greeting from any pushbutton phone, anytime. Special mailboxes can be set up for special situations, like shift-to-shift communication, where the new shift calls into a mailbox for comments and instructions from the last shift.

Texas Commerce Bank personnel are pleased with their new voice store-and-forward system. Voice messaging has increased the productivity of the bank's staff and proven to be a viable cost-saving solution to the most-common telecommunications problem--telephone tag.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Kuenemann, W.B.
Publication:Communications News
Date:May 1, 1985
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