Westpac replaces branch phone systems with iPhones, Teams Calling

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Westpac replaces branch phone systems with iPhones, Teams Calling

Exclusive: Works with Microsoft on specific configuration.

Westpac has equipped over 5000 branch office staff with iPhones and Microsoft Teams Calling in place of the PABX or dedicated VoIP systems previously used to receive or make calls.

The rollout, said to be the “first for a bank in Australia”, builds on a network upgrade completed in 2020 that brought NBN connectivity, wi-fi 6 and SD-WAN technology to its branch network.

The bank, which is already Australia’s largest Teams user, worked with Microsoft to configure Teams Calling to essentially replicate the way its traditional phone systems worked.

“The problems we had to solve were if you call a branch today and the dedicated number, all the dedicated phones ring on the desk,” head of workplace services Paul McKenna told iTnews.

“In a mobile world, we had to solve the problem of [if] you call a branch, every mobile that's associated with that branch would need to ring, and if you left a voicemail, then everyone associated with that branch would need to [be able to] access that voicemail.”

McKenna said that Microsoft expressed interest in the use case and assisted the bank to enable “the sophistication of the routing and some of that capability around accessing voicemails ... by multiple people at the same time.”

The result is a flexible, digital-only and mobile branch office phone system, configured to the operating hours of each branch and to the way each branch is resourced.

“When a customer is calling the branch, all the mobiles ring,” McKenna said.

“If we happen to have an employee in another branch, they'll still receive that call, or they can receive calls from multiple branches if they're aligned to multiple branches, and in the Covid scenario, they can receive calls from home.

“The mobile element of the solution gives that flexibility.”

On the voicemail side, the system converts voicemails to text and shares them with all branch staff.

When staff are in branches, their iPhones use the upgraded in-branch wi-fi and dual NBN links for connectivity; if they are working outside of a branch or at home, the device reverts to cellular connectivity.

The deployment of the system was completed in late August and is now fully operational across Westpac’s 840 branches.

Part of the reason it was required was because the upgrade of all branches to NBN connectivity made some of the bank's older corporate phone systems obsolete.

Although Westpac operates centralised support resources such as contact centres, McKenna said that customers still make between 10,000 and 10,500 calls a day directly to branches.

“Customers want to talk to the local branch,” he said. “It’s a popular channel.”

McKenna added in a statement: “Microsoft Teams Calling means our branch employees are able to answer customer calls from anywhere, which is particularly important as employees in some Covid hotspots are working remotely.

“The technology allows voicemails to be transcribed in Teams and accessed via mobile phone, helping our people to provide more timely service to customers.”

More broadly, Westpac’s corporate staff also have bank-issued smartphones that run Teams and Teams Calling.

“Non branch-based employees have the capability to make calls via Teams, and also almost all roles have smartphones associated with them,” McKenna said.

“What makes the branches special is the configuration [of this system].”

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