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Many companies find that they have developed separate technology infrastructures to serve their Web customers and their phone callers. Typically, each channel has its own business logic, hardware, integration to back-end systems and support teams. In 2001, E*TRADE FINANCIAL decided to improve customer service by adding VoiceXML-based self-service to their telephone systems. The usual headaches and costs involved with infrastructure upgrades spurred them to seek innovative ways to integrate their customer support resources while remaining true to their open source roots.

E*TRADE chose to outsource these challenges to Tellme, with the goal of using their existing Internet data to consolidate the Web and phone channels. E*TRADE and Tellme collaborated to design a phone system that Tellme runs that uses VoiceXML, both to achieve real business results and to improve the customer experience. Because VoiceXML is standards-based, the solution was quick to deploy, without requiring specialized hardware, proprietary software or complex integration. The framework to enable the VoiceXML applications were already in place in E*TRADE’s Web environment.

Now, when an E*TRADE customer takes action in one channel the resulting changes are automatically reflected in every customer channel simultaneously across the unified infrastructure. Every E*TRADE customer has the same password for both the phone and Web, avoiding the hassle of managing multiple passwords. Additionally, the VoiceXML-based system saves E*TRADE approximately $30 million annually.

“By using VoiceXML to tie our phone system to our Web infrastructure, we’ve been able to innovate customer phone services as easily as we evolve our Web offerings, while simultaneously reducing our overall customer service costs,” said Hartley Caldwell, Vice President, E*TRADE FINANCIAL.