Japanese Telemarketer Tries Online Training

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A Japanese telemarketing firm is using a video conferencing system to bring its geographically dispersed call center agents together for training classes.

Moshi Moshi Hotline, which with 10,000 part-time agents is among the three largest telemarketing firms in Japan, needed to improve agent training because of growth in its call center business over the years, the company said. In a deal announced this month, Moshi chose a U.S. business software firm, Centra, to help streamline its training processes.

Previously, Moshi agents received classroom training at the company's 20 call centers in Japan. But managers became concerned that as the call center staff grew, training would become inefficient and agents would fail to receive uniform instructions. Moshi picked Centra's online conferencing technology to bring standardized training to its diverse work force. The technology lets agents participate in training sessions given remotely over the Internet.

The system is being tried with 100 agents at Moshi's Sapporo call center in Japan's Hokkaido region. Moshi executives said they plan to expand use of Centra's technology to other employees.

Testing of the service has already shown the potential for benefits, such as improved attendance and reduced time and cost spent transporting employees to and from training locations, Moshi said. Centra's system also allows for the recording of training sessions, so employees who miss a session can retrieve it later for review.

Centra's online learning system costs $50,000 to $100,000, depending on the setup, said Chris Reed, vice president for corporate strategy at Centra, Lexington, MA. The system also can be used under an application service provider agreement for as little as $1,000 a month.

Centra is looking for other ways to apply its video conferencing technology to direct marketing, Reed said. One way is using video conferencing for prospecting by holding online events and developing leads from attendee lists.

Centra provides Web collaboration and delivery systems. Clients include ExxonMobil, Cadbury Schweppes, Citigroup, AT&T, Procter & Gamble and Merck.

Moshi serves more than 400 companies in the telecommunications, finance, satellite broadcasting and mail-order industries. Inbound calls represent about 80 percent of its business.

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