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BOK Financial taps Varolii's SaaS automated outreach platform to improve collections.

Though national mortgage delinquency rates have skyrocketed in the past year, BOK Financial ($18.1 billion in assets) is bucking the trend. The Tulsa, Okla.-based bank has seen a 12 percent drop in its mortgage delinquency ratio as a result of automating its outreach to its mortgagors.

Until late 2006, BOK Mortgage relied on an auto dialer to connect customers who were nearing 30-day delinquent status to their loan counselors. According to Kenda Ewing, the bank's VP of default, the process made it difficult to get through the list in a timely manner. "During the last two weeks of every month, that is all our loan counselors would do," she says.

"We were looking for a way to automate that process," Ewing continues, adding that BOK had begun using a Par3 Communications -- which earlier this year combined with EnvoyWorldWide to form Seattle-based Varolii -- solution to contact bank customers for nonsufficient fund charges. "We decided that would be a good solution for us." Ewing notes that although various vendors had presented their solutions to BOK over the years, the bank selected Varolii based on its positive results in the overdraft area.

Varolii's platform reaches out to delinquent customers. Once the system confirms personal information specific to the mortgagor, it prompts him or her with several options, including making a payment by phone, promising to pay before the end of the month or choosing to speak with a live loan counselor. If there is no answer, the Varolii system leaves a message for the mortgagor, including a PIN that authenticates the user when he or she calls the system later.

While the bank did not need to purchase any hardware for the deployment, it did purchase programming -- Varolii's application is delivered via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. Following an initial beta test, Varolii programmers began establishing interfaces with BOK Mortgage's in-house contact center platform in November 2006. The bank went live with Varolii in January.

The implementation went "very smoothly," Ewing says, noting that aside from informing loan counselors that the system was going to transfer calls to them when necessary, no bank staff required formal training.

To elicit the highest level of interactions, Ewing participated in "message mastering" sessions with Varolii to create an automated outreach solution that utilized the most effective script, voice and tone. The Varolii team monitors BOK's messaging to identify possible adjustments that could be made to improve collections performance.

According to Ewing, within the first six months of deployment, the automated solution conducted more than 150,000 base notifications. And within the first month, mortgage delinquencies dropped. "I thought it was a fluke," she says. But when the delinquency rate continued to drop every month, Ewing says, she attributed the change to the automated solution and the flexibility it provides.

Mortgagors are able to use the system to pay their mortgage 24 hours a day, Ewing explains -- with the old auto dialer, customers had to settle their balances during normal business hours. "It's a bigger convenience to our mortgagors," she says.

In addition to the drop in the mortgage delinquency ratio, BOK Mortgage also experienced a 325 percent increase in its customer interaction rate, meaning that it tripled the number of promises to pay, actual payments and transfers to agents for further resolution.

"Our loan counselors love it," Ewing adds. "Because it takes them off of that type of call for the last two weeks of every month, they can devote their time to those who are further than one month delinquent."

Institution: BOK Financial (Tulsa, Okla.).

Assets: $18.1 billion.

Business Challenge: Automate contacts with 30-day-delinquent mortgagors.

Solution: Varolii Corp.'s (Seattle) SaaS automated outreach platform.

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