Desjardins turns to IVR for bill payment

MONTREAL — Elix, which specializes in interactive business solutions for contact centres, has been awarded a five-year contract by the Desjardins Group for the

implementation of Desjardins’ AccèsD (1-800 Caisses) and Visa Desjardins voice system services.

Desjardins will use Elix’s IVS VoiceXML for Windows 2000 interactive voice response (IVR) platform to develop, operate and manage the financial institution’s voice system infrastructure. The platform also allows the integration of an automated speech recognition system that will facilitate telephone banking transactions for Desjardins’ members and customers.

“”This is one of our largest contracts to date,”” said Rita Azrak, director of marketing and communications at Montreal-based Elix which was created in 2000 from the merger of Prima and Mediasoft. “”They were looking for a new IVR platform and selected us from a list of about six candidates.””

The benefits of VoiceXML are that it leverages an organization and Web investments for voice applications by adding a voice-based system that uses the same data and business logic. It also increases capacity easily at minimal cost and provides a non-proprietary voice system.

IVR provides quick access to data and information while automating routine business and contact centre tasks. IVR software solutions are used to improve customer service, customer databases, account status, voice mail, help desks and call centre messaging.

The new platform will require the installation of 900 new phone lines and is replacing a system installed by Elix in 1997 called Primatex. It should be fully operational by the second quarter of next year, according to account executive Pierre Lemoine.

“”The new system offers better response time and Web site transactions can be done through the phone. It’s also easier to navigate within the system and transactions, such as paying bills, can be done through voice recognition,”” he said.

Lemoine cites as an example someone who wants to pay their hydro bill. Through VoiceXML, they simply state the amount they want to pay and the transaction is completed automatically.

The Elix contract is worth several million dollars and Desjardins opted for the new platform because the initial Elix technology was becoming obsolete, said Roger Tessier, Desjardins’ director of sales and automated services.

“”The main reason we decided to stay with Elix is that the new platform gives us the same level of service and we gain new functions. The cost of development is also reduced because we’re using their existing platform. And certain transactions which occur frequently, such as a change of address, are done much more quickly.””

While IVR only represents about 10 per cent of transactions by Desjardins’ clients, it accounts for a much higher percentage in terms of volume. With 65 million IVR transactions a year, it is only second to ATMs which handle 250 million transactions a year.

“”After the Internet, it is the most efficient way of interacting with our clients in terms of costs,”” Tessier noted.

Elix is a private company whose major shareholders include Intel Communications Funds and GTI Capital. In addition to Elix, major clients include Visa, Air Canada and Duke Power, one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S. The company provided technology to IKEA’s Canadian operation in February and the City of Montreal in March.

Desjardins Group is a cooperative financial group whose members and clients are shareholders in the organization. It is the largest financial institution in Quebec and sixth largest in Canada with over five million members and clients and over $90 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2002.

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