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LAKELAND, Fla. – Publix Employees Federal Credit Union is in the process of rolling out a series of high-tech solutions aimed at both improving member service and hardening network reliability while increasing internal efficiencies. At the heart of the effort are a phalanx of products from Cisco Systems, the major provider of routers, switches, network security equipment and other gear that forms the infrastructure of the Internet itself. The $490 million credit union has its headquarters in Lakeland, Florida with six branches and two satellites offering home banking and ATM access from other locations where the big grocery store chain operates. Karen Sullivan, PEFCU’s IT director and chief network security officer, says her own operation is “one of the first shops I know like ours to go all Cisco the way we have.” Products now in use at Publix Employees FCU include the Cisco CallManager call-processing solution, Cisco IPCC Express for call routing and network-to-desktop computer telephony integration, and Cisco Unity, a unified communications solution that integrates with desktop applications such as Microsoft’s Outlook and Lotus Notes. Installation and training help for all this has come from Coleman Technologies, a Tampa-based consultancy and Cisco re-seller partner. One of the biggest Cisco deploys was the IP telephony system, rolled out last May at the credit union’s call center in Lakeland, which now handles 7,000 to 8,000 calls a week with twelve agents. “We were able to create a knowledge base for them to quickly answer questions from members, which reduces the workload for other employees. It also allows the supervisor to get good reports about how her people are interacting with members, as well as to break in and take over calls, all things she couldn’t do with our old Nortel system,” Sullivan says. “She can really monitor a lot of stuff in real time now.” Sullivan says the IP telephony system also has reduced response time on member phone calls by 50% over the previous PBX system, an improvement helped along by an interface Coleman Technologies created with the credit union’s Symitar core system to create screen pop-ups with member account information. PEFCU is one of about 500 credit unions in the United States to deploy IP telephone systems from Cisco, says Rune Oslund, financial services market manager for Cisco Systems in San Jose, Calif. “We typically see credit unions deploying the IP telephony and contact center solutions first, then moving forward to find innovative ways to use their network to get more bang for their buck, such as marketing content delivery,” Oslund says. Plans now call for the rest of the Lakeland operation to get the IP telephony system in June and it will probably go to the branches in August or September, Sullivan says. At the same time a new IVR call flow system will be implemented that will offer additional functions to supplement the new ability to do merchant verification for checks, says Garry Reid, PEFCU’s account manager from Coleman Technologies. Those functions may include fax-back options and loan application capabilities. The credit union also is preparing to use Cisco MeetingPlace, a conferencing solution that integrates voice, video and Web capabilities on the network behind the firewall. “In general, the integration between all these channels becomes much better because it’s all on one network,” says Oslund at Cisco. “The way we look at it, is that it’s voice, video and data all going on a trip together. It’s corny, but it works.” The deployments at PEFCU can be used to help advance both member service and internal efficiencies, says Sullivan. For example, branch offices can be staffed with only one or two people because video phones can be used to provide members a one-on-one experience from those locations with a loan officer in the mortgage department in Lakeland. “We’re going to be able to offer a lot of amenities to members that we couldn’t before,” Sullivan adds. “And a big thing for us is that our uptime has been phenomenal. We don’t have to tell members that we can’t help them because something is down.” The Cisco gear is part of a strategy of service improvement and continuity that also includes a backup site through SunGard’s center in Lake Mary, Fla., that the credit union hopes to have live by May 27. That connection will come after two years of work on disaster recovery planning that originally got under way because of Gramm-Leach-Bliley regulations, with Florida’s massive hurricane season last year adding an underline. “We’re using Cisco switches and an EMC enterprise storage network that can do automated failovers to Lake Mary and it will integrate with all our critical Windows and Unix systems. We’re bringing CallManager into that, too,” Sullivan says. Work on hardening the system already has yielded positive results, she notes. “We only lost power once during the hurricanes, and we got hit three times here in Polk County. We know they’re probably not going to stop, so this work will only make us better able to keep our service going for our members.” -

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