Rolling Dice on New Technology: Gamble Pays Off for Uniglobe.com

Last October, Uniglobe.com decided to roll the dice and take a chance on new call centre technology heavily touted by Lucent Technologies of Holmdel, NJ. Uniglobe is in the Internet travel business. Through its site, consumers can book air, car and hotel reservations plus cabins on romantic cruises. Backing up the virtual are a pair of physical call centres. One handles the air, car and hotel tour traffic, and is run by a third party.


The second, staffed by 35 agents, handles the cruise business. That one is under Uniglobe.com’s direct control. What Lucent promised to do was install in the cruise call centre something called CentreVu, a software package that lets one call centre handle not just telephone traffic but also e-mail, direct Internet keyboard communication (similar to chat rooms) plus voice communication over the Internet.


No extra equipment and precious little retraining, Lucent promised. All calls of any type would come right to the agents’ monitors, just as they had in the past. To hint at the money involved on this toss of the dice, Lucent says CentreVu starts at around US$50,000 and heads up from there, depending on the number of seats in a call centre. The result? According to Connie Smith, general manager of operations at Uniglobe.com, CentreVu came up a natural seven.


“When we installed it, we kept track of the types of calls we were getting,” she explains. Bottom line, CentreVu’s expanded range of options for consumers wanting or needing to contact Uniglobe.com’s call centre translated into an almost doubling of business. Here’s how CentreVu works. Connect with a Web site that uses the product and you’ll face a choice of options for talking with a service rep.


There will be e-mail, chat and voice buttons. Click on the one that best suits you. E-mail is self-explanatory. Chat allows you to enter a real-time message via the keyboard on your computer and receive an almost immediate response. The Uniglobe.com version of CentreVu offers another feature, created especially for the company. While most call centres feature a large wall-mounted display showing the number of calls of different types waiting in the queue to be answered, Lucent has moved that board right onto each agent’s desk monitor. Now it appears as a banner across the top of the screen. “We have service guarantees as to how quickly we respond to each type of call”, Ms. Smith says.
“That feature alone goes a long way to keeping agents on their toes. No more looking away from their work and up at the wall. Now it’s right there in front of them.”

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