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Banking industry streamlines customer service and unifies branches with ShoreTel IP telephony platform

Single system spans multiple sites, enabling virtual receptionists and workgroups; intuitive user and management interfaces accommodate constant change and rapid growth
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SUNNYVALE, CA, July 7, 2006 - ShoreTel, Inc., the fastest growing IP PBX company worldwide and the leader in customer satisfaction, today announced a growing number of banks are using its IP phone system to improve customer service and boost productivity, unify communications and virtualize resources across branches, and ease administration and management.

The customer is king in the highly competitive world of retail banking, and institutions such as Missouri's Union Bank, Wisconsin's Community Bank & Trust, and Alabama's Citizens Bank are giving their customers the royal treatment with ShoreTel's uniquely distributed phone system. Using built-in presence intelligence, workgroup and hunt group functionality, and find-me, follow-me capabilities, ShoreTel helps ensure that important customers get connected to the right resource.

"The ShoreTel phone system has improved our customer satisfaction," says Lisa Dawson, executive vice president of Union Bank, which is headquartered in Kansas City and has 10 branches around the state. "Customers report that they are now much more likely to get through to the people they are calling. The receptionists can see the status of each employee, and transfer calls more efficiently."

Union Bank used ShoreTel to create a single virtual call center for customer service. Any employee at any branch can plug into the call center and take calls, and there are similar call centers for loan operations and the IT help desk. Incoming calls are automatically routed to the agent who has gone the longest without taking one.

Rapid growth? No problem

With headquarters in Russellville and 23 additional branches that had a patchwork of incompatible phone systems, Citizens Bank was faced with an even bigger unification challenge. The bank wanted a centralized call center and a single phone system that was easy to use and implement. It also had to accommodate some aggressive growth plans: Citizens acquired six branches in 2005 and opened a new one this year.

"The ShoreTel system is very intuitive, whether you are using it or managing it," reports Jeremy Scott, IT manager. "When you need to change something, it is quick and simple. I can make any phone ring in the call center in a matter of seconds."

Calls to the branches are now answered in the call center, so dedicated receptionists are not needed at each location. An operator at one branch can be covered by people in the call center or at other sites. Productivity is enhanced, and customers get treated more consistently.

Easy to implement, manage, and use

Growth is also the order of the day at Community Bank & Trust, which is headquartered in Sheboygan with an operations center and 11 branches. The existing locations are expanding, and the bank has added two new ones in the past 6 months. Growth by acquisition led to a collection of disparate phone systems that did not share a common feature set.

With the multi-site ShoreTel system, calls can be transferred to any branch. A branch operator workgroup enables two receptionists to handle calls for all locations. There is 4-digit dialing across sites, and intrastate tolls for interoffice calls are avoided. Call logging and reporting capabilities generate detailed reports that provide a good picture of call volumes on the main switchboard and among the various departments, helping management to forecast growth requirements.

But the biggest benefit to date has been the ease with which the ShoreTel system can accommodate growth and constant changes.

"We are constantly shifting personnel around, and the old phone systems made this very difficult," says Sheila Genske, IT trainer and telecommunications specialist. "An outside vendor would have to come in, and the whole process could take days. The ShoreTel system is browser-based, and I can make changes immediately, even from home. The ShoreWare Director management interface is very intuitive-it is an awesome tool to have."

The ShoreTel advantage

These and other banks are choosing ShoreTel over VoIP offerings from virtually every major player, including Cisco, Nortel, and Avaya. They find that the ShoreTel solution is more cost-effective and much easier to install, manage, and use.

Features that are add-ons in other systems are built in to the basic ShoreTel platform. ShoreTel also uses a uniquely distributed architecture that delivers 99.999% reliability without requiring configurations with extensive and expensive redundancies. And the award-winning Personal Call Manager interface can turn the most committed computer-phobe into a convergence enthusiast.

About Union Bank

Union Bank was founded in 1965 when 14 entrepreneurs from various business backgrounds came together to build a community bank based on unsurpassed customer service-a philosophy not embraced by most banks at the time. Three of the founders still sit on the board of directors, and the bank retains many of its original customers. Operating initially out of a double-wide trailer, the bank now spans 11 locations and has 200 employees and more than $500 million in assets.

About Citizens Bank

Founded a century ago, Citizens Bank was the only bank in Russellville that remained solvent throughout the Great Depression. Citizens Bank continues to grow and expand its service base and is now one of the largest community banks in Alabama, with 23 locations across Alabama and Tennessee and more than $760 million in assets.

About Community Bank & Trust

Community Bank & Trust is a growing bank with strong community roots and a mission to meet or exceed customer expectations. Founded in 1989 by fourteen local Sheboygan investors who felt a need for a locally owned and operated independent bank, the bank has grown to over $450 million in assets, eleven branch offices, and more than 200 employees. Community Bank & Trust has been the leading lender in its size category since 1999, has been recognized as Wisconsin's Minority Lender of the Year for two successive years, and earned the 2004 and 2005 Customer First Award from Lakeland College and the Sheboygan Press.

About ShoreTel, Inc.

ShoreTel is the fastest growing IP PBX company worldwide and the leader in customer satisfaction. The company has shipped its groundbreaking solutions since 1998 and continues to outpace the rapidly expanding VoIP market with technological advances and sales that are doubling year over year. ShoreTel voice systems are designed to make businesses smarter, setting new standards for usability and manageability while reducing telecommunications costs. A uniquely distributed architecture extends enterprise-class voice services to every office and outpost, keeping employees fully connected wherever they go. A select, worldwide group of channel partners provide top-notch service and support. For more information, visit http://www.shoretel.com/ or call 1-877-80SHORE