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S. Korea: Kookmin sees call centre as a profit channel

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South Korea's biggest lender merges two call centre operations as it aims to create the largest facility in Asia Pacific.

Almost two years after merging with Housing & Commercial Bank (H&CB) to form South Korea's largest bank with nearly $200 billion in deposits, Kookmin Bank has undergone major reorganisation moves as part of its focus on retail services. Part of this exercise is the bank's decision to combine its existing Seoul and Daejon call centre operations into a single, 1,200-agent facility.

Call centres, a widely recognised point-of-contact with customers, are being tailored by banks as customer relationship management tools. Kookmin said it wants to promote proactive marketing activities by reducing the workload in the branch offices. "Upgrading our installed base will help us keep pace in an increasingly competitive marketplace by raising customer-service levels and employee productivity while reducing costs," claims Hyeong-chan Kim, general manager at Kookmin Bank's knowledge management team.

Kookmin said the new facility, which collects all calls to the bank and simultaneously acts as a marketing and e-business service, would provide "a solid and scalable foundation to drive profitable, long-term customer relationships through skill-based routing, comprehensive management and reporting, and real-time supervisory and management displays."

Kookmin said it reviewed all its integration issues from November to December 2001 and had been integrating its computer systems based around H&CB's platform. Back-office functions were centralised in July 2002 around a hub-and-spoke system, and the bank had completed the final phase of the integration by September 2002. The system is presently activated and, the bank claims, is currently running smoothly.

"The difference between the content and the nature of work between the legacy systems of Kookmin and H&CB before the merger was one of the major issues for us," said Young Ho Lee, deputy general manager of Kookmin Bank's call centre team.

"We also had a shortage of technical manpower and capacities in the operating system," shares Lee. "But we employed technical manpower from developmental firms while training our employees. The capacities were added to cover for the shortage we initially experienced."

Kookmin said it also hopes to leverage its investment by using voice-over IP to simplify management and administration. Kookmin plans to extend voice-over IP services to approximately 700 regional offices early this year. - Matthew Taylor

--The Asian Banker E-Newsletter (January 17, 2003)--

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