Global personal communications network spawns global customer care center

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Gearing up for the global launch of its Iridium System wireless product line in September and the deluge of service and sales inquiries likely to accompany it, Iridium is implementing a virtual global call center program that deploys multi-lingual representatives and a host of technology firsts.


The Iridium project, which will introduce a subscriber-based global wireless communications network, marries a roster of telecommunications hardware and software systems for three individual call centers that will be linked into a single "virtual" center through computer telephony integration.


"Sprint has a critical role as the creator of this new virtual call center concept," said Brian Craven, a spokesman for Sprint TELECENTERs. "There are some exciting firsts with this project, not the least of which is the wireless connection, that's what sets this apart. We are using wireless and an intelligence system that will find the right customer contact or call center around the world that satisfies the customer needs."


Partnering with Sprint TELECENTERs Inc. for management of the call center, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Inc., to provide the computer integration framework, and Motorola for the design and development of personal telephones and pagers that can communicate globally, Iridium aims to service subscribers through 200 representatives throughout the three linked centers in Sydney, Australia, Orlando, FL, and the Zoetermeer, Netherlands.


The Genesys system will connect the Iridium customer service centers, known as Global Customer Care, across three continents, linking and streamlining call center processes and improving customer service. The same wireless network that serves subscribers will also be used for the call centers.


"The computer telephony integration by Genesys forms the backbone of the system and uses intelligent call routing and real time and historical reporting to build a database and customer profile with seamless integration


"The idea behind the breakthrough is using wireless technology to instantly provide a global connection platform that can route calls immediately, transparently and so efficiently," Craven said. "That is going to be the challenge. If it works that will be the triumph," he added.


The companies, collectively known as Iridium LLC and including other telecommunications and telemarketing firms such as MCI and Prestige International, are currently testing call center operations that will function through a base of a constellation of low-earth-orbit satellites. Callers will be able to access Global Customer care through a toll-free number available throughout 120 countries, Craven said. Based on the customer inputs to a voice unit, callers and information about their queries will be routed instantly to an agent who will also receive a profile of the call. The process aims to reduce caller wait times and to increase efficiency of call center agents.


Although the actual staffing of the sites is still being reviewed, the centers will be staffed with agents fluent in 13 different languages including Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese Greek, Japanese and Korean, as well as English. The centers will be staffed around-the-clock. As part of the call process, Iridium users will be connected directly to an agent who speaks the same language. With a globally positioned product, the strategy addresses language barriers in servicing customers regarding billing inquiries, general inquires, reports for lost or stolen equipment, network performance, trouble shooting and first-time callers seeking more information on the products.


The project targeted call center locations strategically based on time zones in order to deliver 24-hour operations. "We are setting up our language distribution now but expect that 95 percent of the calls will be serviced through the 13 languages. We selected the three locations because they already have a high rate of multi-lingualism," Craven said, adding that feature should provide a strong labor pool.


The center is expected to add another 400 by 2000. Craven projected that the centers will reach capacity of 1,100 workstations before 2005.
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