Electronic Payment Provider Adds Capacity

Fort Knox National Co., a provider of electronic payment solutions, has opened a new customer contact center in Madisonville, Ky.

The new center is being hailed as a major economic development event for western Kentucky. Madisonville is located in the Central time zone, whereas FKNC's existing site in Elizabethtown is located in the Eastern time zone. Company officials will help the firm provide customer service over a wider period of time.

Bill Tolliver was recently hired as manager of the new contact center. In addition, FKNC has already hired 16 employees and expects to hire a total of 192 more, boosting the company's employment by 50%. Currently, FKNC has more than 400 employees in Elizabethtown, where the firm opened in 1985.

Wages for positions in Madisonville begin at $8.95 per hour for starting customer service representatives and include a benefit package. Wages rise to $26.71 for management positions.

Customer service representatives receive more than 40 hours of training before they begin taking client calls at the customer contact center. CSRs take appropriate information to debit the customer's checking account, savings account, or credit card. They also offer the flexibility to make one-time convenience payments or enroll in a recurring payment program that best suits customers' needs.

Fort Knox said it is investing $3.6 million to renovate the entire facility. The 10,125-square-foot building previously was an encoding facility for the U.S. Postal Service until it closed five years go.

In addition to being equipped with the latest telecommunications technology, equipment and workstations, the facility is also equipped with keycard access, surveillance cameras and a back-up generator to protect computer systems.

FKNC credited the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, Madisonville, Hopkins County and the Madisonville/Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation for involvement that made the decision to locate in Madisonville easier. FKNC said it took advantage of several programs that assist companies making capital expenditures to add jobs and expand facilities.

FKNC is a provider of single-source electronic payment solutions, processing 19.7 million of payments annually for more than 700 companies in the mortgage, utility and financial services industries. FKNC offers billers IVR, Internet and in-house payment options, which integrate consumer payment, remittance, reporting and support.

TruePay is often used by customers making convenience payments via the telephone or electronic channels to avoid late fees. Consumers typically are charged a fee for making convenience payments.

Troy Critchelow, vice president of product management for FKNC's TruePay service, said the facility helps the company support clients with a blend of automation and human contact services.

"It's essentially a third-party service that allows clients to increase fee revenue within their mortgage portfolio," Mr. Critchelow said.

TruePay encompasses outsource call center agents, speech recognition technology, interactive voice response units and private-label Internet resources, he said. The FKNC call centers back up the IVR, helping to reduce fallout from IVR calls that do not go to completion, he said.

"It creates a unified platform so that consumers can use whichever channel is most comfortable for them," he said.

Much of the value from outsourcing convenience payment calls to FKNC comes not only from automation but also from "call deflection," since it reduces the number of calls going into a lender's own call center.

He said the recently enacted Check 21 law should facilitate increased demand for convenience payments, since it reduces the paperwork associated with processing automated clearinghouse transactions for a lender's existing customers.

He said electronic payments are increasing at a rapid pace, estimated at 12% to 15% growth annually. At least one estimate has electronic payments accounting for 70% of bill transactions by 2009, Mr. Critchelow said.

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