Option One Links Remote Agents Through Two Switches

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Option One Mortgage Corp. recently created a virtual call center environment that allows it to track call statistics from 22 regional H&R Block Financial Centers as though the agents in those centers were all working through only two switches.

The Irvine, CA-based company, which is a subsidiary of H&R Block Inc., wanted to be able to advertise a national toll-free number and keep track of the call volumes and other data while distributing the calls to 150 mortgage agents housed in H&R Block Financial Centers around the country.

Using Office Link 2000 from Teltone Corp., Bothell, WA, Option One is able to use the management reporting capabilities of its Lucent automatic call distributors in Pleasanton, CA, and Tampa, FL, to handle all mortgage-related calls that it receives through 1-800-HRBlock.

"What this system allows you to do is to have those remote sites, but from the switch, it looks like those people are all working in the Pleasanton [or Tampa] office," said Kathy Desiderio, telecommunications manager at H&R Block. "You can get all of the full reporting."

When consumers call the toll-free number, an interactive voice response system allows them to select from several options, including mortgage, tax and investment services. When callers select mortgage services, the system uses automatic number identification to determine where the call originated. Then it routes the call to one of the two sites, in either California or Florida.

From there, the switches route calls to the phones on agents' personal computers in the regional H&R Block office that is closest to the caller's location.

"From a management perspective, it looks like those people in [the branch offices] are working in the California office because they are working off that switch and they have all the features of a phone off that switch, even though they are hundreds or thousands of miles away," Desiderio said. "The functionality is perfect."

Option One, which funded about $3.6 billion in mortgages last year, markets residential mortgages through a national network of brokers and wholesale agents. The Teltone function applies to only the agents in the company's H&R Block Financial Centers.

The company plans to offer the service to additional centers this summer. Desiderio said a recent report indicated that the centers were receiving about 35 calls per day in each office.

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