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Courtesy Calls

BOK Financial connects with customers and decreases charge-offs with Par3 solution.

Faced with mounting account charge-offs, BOK Financial, a $16 billion bank holding company, needed to find a way to reduce overdraws without alienating customers. Officials at the Tulsa, Okla.-based firm decided it should contact customers more quickly when their accounts first became overdrawn, says James Morris, SVP and manager of ExpressBank, a 24-hour contact center and BOK unit that services each of the holding company's six banks.

The initial plan was to triple the number of people at ExpressBank making calls to overdrawn accounts from two to six. But before the plan was enacted, Morris accepted a cold call in January 2005 from Par3 Communications, a Seattle-based provider of multichannel, event-based notification and response systems. "It was just a coincidence that Par3 called at that time," he says.

The bank had planned the staff expansion for February, but instead decided the Par3 solution would be a better, less-expensive option. One other product, which Morris declines to name, was briefly considered and rejected as not fitting the company's needs. "We liked the flexibility that Par3 offered," Morris says of the solution's ability to use different notifications depending on the urgency of an account's delinquency.

Implementation began in February 2005. Since the automated contact solution is hosted by Par3, no additional hardware or software was needed. However, it took about 60 days for BOK and Par3 to develop the automated scripts for initial and follow-up automated calls before going live with the new courtesy notification solution.

Using Par3, BOK contacts customers with a pre-recorded message on the first day after an overdraft. Upon receiving the call, the customer can indicate a promise to pay the amount of the overdraft plus fees within three days or can transfer to an agent to discuss other payment arrangements. Subsequent automated calls follow until the customer covers the amount or the bank freezes the account.

The tone and content of the pre-recorded messages change based on the number of days since the initial overdraft occurred, becoming more urgent as the account gets closer to charge-off and the collection process, Morris notes. Par3's technology also tracks all calls, including number of contacts, length of each contact and where in the process each contact ended.

Live and in Person

As a result of the implementation, BOK has been able to reduce its customer call workload to only half of a full-time employee's duties. On average, the automated system attempts to contact each overdrawn customer 2.25 times per day, more attempts than BOK could have made even if it had tripled its courtesy calling staff, according to Morris. With increased calls, BOK also greatly enhances its chances of reaching a live customer rather than an answering machine, an important factor in clearing up any account deficits.

"Every day, we successfully reach nearly four times as many overdrawn customers than before—at a fraction of the cost," Morris says. "Our customers appreciate the heads-up, and we're keeping more of our NSF [non-sufficient funds] revenue—everybody wins."

Based on the success of the demand deposit account (DDA) notification program, BOK is looking to use the technology across other business units, particularly those that involve collections, such as auto loans and similar consumer debt. --Phil Britt

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