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Banks invest in courtesy

Online banks are starting to recognize what many financial institutions in the physical world have learned the hard way: With growing competition, customer service counts more than ever.

Online banks are starting to recognize what many financial institutions have learned the hard way: With growing competition, customer service counts more than ever.

Toward that end, Security First Network Bank next week will announce an Internet call center created by Hewlett-Packard, Alltel, Cambridge Technology Partners, and Quintus to handle online inquiries. Five Paces, a subsidiary of First Network, also played a key role in the project.

The companies promise that the new system will offer faster, more personalized service--addressing one of the big complaints about online banking, along with security concerns. Alltel will manage the data center for First Security.

Later, customers will be able to manage their entire financial portfolio over the Net. Security First plans to offer credit cards, loans, and insurance services as well. For example, through a tracking mechanism, it will ensure that the same customer service agent handles your request--even it you call back later with the same problem.