AOL to Service Canadian Calls From Canada

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With the amount of members of its Canadian affiliate AOL Canada continuing to grow, America Online has shifted customer service operations for the affiliate from an in-house call center in Oklahoma to an outsourced call center in Canada.

The move was made primarily to offer the company's Canadian customers service targeted more toward the needs of the Canadian consumer. An ICT Group call center in Riverview, New Brunswick, will begin servicing Canadian calls over the next few months, while the Oklahoma center will continue to field calls from customers in the United States.

"AOL Canada supports Canadian members. The whole service is tailored to the needs of Canadian customers," said Joan Simkins, communications manager for AOL Canada. "As our customer base has grown over the years, we felt it was an appropriate time to provide the bilingual services that our customers have asked for."

Approximately 120 French and English speaking representatives at the center will handle billing inquiries, technical support questions, and a customer retention program for the company, said Jack Egan, vice president and general manager of financial marketing services for ICT Group. The center is equipped with 400 workstations.

"They are taking a more local position in the Canadian market," he said. "I think they felt they wanted to have Canadians serving Canadians."

Customer retention agents will focus on helping customers find the content they are searching for, while technical support will involve helping customers with the functionality of AOL software, Simkins said.

The company began a three-month training program for agents at the Riverview center in August that focuses on the fun and ease of use of AOL software, said Simkins.

The company will divert calls from Canadian customers to the Riverview center in stages, based on the nature of the call, said Simkins.

Initially, agents will specialize in one queue, similar to the way calls are handled at the company's U.S. call centers. As agents gain experience, they may be cross trained in different specialties to add flexibility to the center's call- handling capacity.

ICT Group initially expects to field approximately 100,000 calls a month as a result of the assignment, said Egan.

The ICT center was selected primarily for its bilingual capabilities, with other factors such as cost and service levels taken into consideration, said Simkins.

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