A SIP in time for bank clients

ATMs in Winnipeg now support VoIP and videoconferencing.


A Winnipeg credit union says it has been able to offer customers new interactive communications capabilities at the ATM (automated teller machine), with a little help from session initiation protocol (SIP) technology.

Vantis Credit Union's new SIP-based based system enables customers to engage in video and instant messaging transactions over the ATMs, with the organisation's financial experts.

SIP is a signalling protocol that enables communication over IP networks. It is a way by which various computers can talk to one another, so they can complete voice calls as well as transmit video signals.

Vantis serves more than 22,000 members through six branches in Winnipeg and two other locations in Manitoba. With the deployment of a Nortel contact centre application, the financial institution says it can now widen its area coverage without investing in capital intensive bricks and mortar facilities.

"This new technology allows us to provide better service by enabling easy access to member files from any branch or outlet, while reducing our base cost," said Michelle Audette, president and CEO of Vantis.

Dubbed 'Expert Anywhere Contact Solution', the new system is based on Nortel Contact Centre 6.0, an integrated SIP-based application. The system has been integrated with Vantis' Web portal and deployed throughout the credit union's ATM network.

"Imagine accessing your file on the kiosk, conversing with financial experts via instant messaging (IM) and then completing a form that the agent sent you online, all in one session, from one access point," said Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal of communications and customer relations at consultancy firm McGee-Smith Analytics LLC in Amherst, NH.

This, she said, is essentially what the new SIP-based application allows users to do.

As SIP-based communication can go over existing PBX networks within an enterprise, the system provides significant savings as it allows the company to reduce the number of external phone lines that must be maintained.

SIP also offers the convenience of free long distance transmission as it works alongside Internet-based protocols.

ATMs that take advantage of Contact Centre 6.0 offer bank customers significant capabilities that conventional kiosks don't, said one Nortel executive.

Traditional kiosk transactions limit users to accessing their file and carrying out basic transactions such as bank deposits, withdrawals and fund transfers, noted Shane O'Neill, product manager of Nortel's research and development department in Ireland.

To contact a bank representative, O'Neill said, a customer would have to call a number and converse with the agent over the phone but collaboration online is limited. "Contact Centre 6.0 allows the customer to contact a bank representative anywhere in the world and then carryout complex transactions such as applying for loan by pushing Web pages online."

"The system takes concepts such as MSN instant messaging, Skype talking and white boarding to the enterprise," said O'Neill. He said Vantis can significantly reduce costs, as the kiosks are able to provide services that previously required a customer visit to a bank branch.

Vantis president Audette said another a major customer benefit is the ease of access the kiosks offer Vantis' financial experts. "This isn't about cutting our highly-skilled member service reps, it's about bringing in new tools that will improve communications with members."

According to McGee-Smith, Nortel's contact centre offering also provides an illustration of the collaboration between Nortel and Microsoft Corp. "Microsoft's OCS (Office Communications Server) can function well with Nortel's [SIP-based] Contact Centre 6.0,” said McGee-Smith.

She said SIP-based applications are poised to take over time division multiplexing (TDM) and IP systems. "In eight to 10 years from now, SIP will be widely adopted the question is will some firms make a stop over from TDM to IP or go straight to SIP."

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