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Internet telephony during SARS scare

When a Toronto firm wanted to keep its call centre agents healthy during the recent SARS scare, Avaya Canada Corp. had the right prescription: It supplied the software to let them operate from home.

In fact, Avaya was already doing that for its own operations, after its Beijing office was closed as a precautionary measure, according to Tracy Fleming, a senior technical consultant at Avaya Canada.

In many call centres, VOIP technology is used to switch customer service calls from one office location to another and to send background information to an agent's computer screen. What Avaya had to figure out was how to let the company switch the calls to home phone numbers that were not hooked up to an Internet protocol network.

What it deployed was a hybrid solution that uses Internet telephony software to route phone calls through the regular phone system. It meant that employees could work from home, but the company, which it would not identify, did not lose any of the capabilities of its call centre operation, Mr. Fleming says.

The company still used its computer systems to track and log calls, routing them to the most appropriate agent. If an agent did not answer the call, it could be transferred automatically to another employee's home phone, thus avoiding the risk of having a customer getting bounced to an agent's personal voice mail.

Meanwhile, the agents had the same access to on-line information about the callers that they would have in the call centre, Mr. Fleming says.

© The Globe and Mail

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