Fexco invests €550k in speech technology

17 Jan 2005

Kerry-based finance player Fexco has opted to invest €550k in what sources claim is one of the largest European investments in speech recognition in the past 13 months. The company has awarded a contract to European call centre integrator Datapoint to implement a speech-recognition system capable of answering more than 2.5 million calls on behalf of Western Union.

The Syntellect system, which will be supplied and implemented by Datapoint, is expected to deliver a range of benefits to Western Union including an improved service to its network of 2,500 sales representatives and will pay for itself within 20 months. The Datapoint contract includes tailoring, supply and integration of the Syntellect Vista speech engine and three years maintenance and support.

Kerry-based Fexco provides outsourcing services to a wide range of international clients, including Coca-Cola, Diageo Ireland, various Irish government-sponsored bodies such as Bord Failte’s Gulliver service, Unilever and Western Union, for whom it helps process and manage its global payment service.

The system will enable Fexco to avoid future costs by automating the repetitive elements of calls while allowing customer service representatives to concentrate on the value-added queries. The automation will provide Western Union customers and staff with a much more consistent level of service.

The speech-recognition system will also enhance the Western Union brand by introducing a persona for the automated speech service, which reflects the best traits of a Western Union employee, including reliability, speed and convenient service and helps put a face to the voice. Ger Murphy, Fexco’s operations director, said: “In automating some of our call centre functions, we wanted to offer a better experience on behalf of Western Union for its sales representatives and customers. The Syntellect software, supplied by Datapoint, understands virtually all accents you may come across in Ireland or the UK. The new system will also deliver a range of benefits to our business by providing greater customer service potential for the services we provide on behalf of other clients.”

The system will be implemented in Fexco’s two call centres in Kerry. It will automate calls from Western Union sales franchises and the general public in Ireland and the UK regarding money transfer costs and from customers identifying their closest Western Union outlet in Ireland or the UK.

The system will also be used to automate the first part of calls sending money overseas via Western Union. Having satisfied identification and security requirements and provided transfer amount and destination details, callers will be connected to a live agent to complete a transaction.

As part of its bid, Datapoint ran a five-week pilot of the technology at Fexco’s facilities in Kerry, which enabled IT staff, call centre agents and Western Union sales franchises to test the technology. Positive feedback paved the way for the full project where 92pc of respondents stated that the system’s overall performance was good or very good.

By John Kennedy