IBM Consolidates Call Centers with New Global Strategy

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ORLANDO, FL-In the hopes of creating a streamlined global service model for teleservices, IBM plans to consolidate its international call centers.

According to a source at the company, the 17 operating centers throughout the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region will be reduced to two centers with locations predicted in Ireland and Scotland.

The global call center, according to Michael A. Kalinowski, vice president, sales and operations, global direct marketing, IBM, will mean that customers will be serviced from a single focus point. This means that a Parisian or an Athenian or a native of Johannesburg will be on the same database and would call in to the same center in Dublin.

Efficiency, cost reduction and increased service levels are expected.

The global center will be implemented with new technology, standardized measurements, defined processes and less toll-free numbers. "We want to decrease the hundreds of 800-numbers down to two," said Kalinowski. Technology will be improved in the areas of business processes, databases, infrastructure and telephony, according to Kalinowski. "From a 'pen and pencil' system, we need to move into real time," he said.

The Internet is expected to be a large part of the equation. "We have transactions we want to put through E-commerce so that we can focus on high income generators," said Kalinowski.

Also included in the IBM global call center will be heavy deployment of customer resource management (CRM). The focus of the company will be centered around the rep to customer relationship with changes made to delivery of the appropriate message, understanding the customer's needs, delivering on commitment, tracking.

The reps' role will shift away from order-taking in favor of consulting. That means better recruiting practices with efforts made in increasing employee retention. Career planning and personal development, skills assessment and mentoring changes are currently being implemented.

The moves come at a time when the company is just starting to rebound from the wake-up call that sounded five years ago, when IBM was growing at a rate of 3 percent compared to the industry growth rate of 7 percent. The company began its four-tiered challenge to grow revenue faster than the industry average, enter new markets, compete in a lower margin environment, and lead the industry in technology and customer satisfaction. Currently the growth rate of the company is at xx.

Nancy Chamberlin, vp norht america customer services centers 972-402- 6406

Cathy Riley, Venderlaar, external 011 31 020 5137 202

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