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Friday, 01 June 2012 17:29

Keep humans out of service [24]7


Optus, and the local divisions of Lenovo and Avis are paying a total of around $40 million a year to US based company, [24]7, for a cloud based service developed to improve the customer experience while cutting out call centre conversations.

Based in Silicon Valley, [24]7 has signed up just those three Australian customers, which between them account for more than 15 per cent of its $US250 million annual revenues. PV Kannan, the co-founder and chief executive officer who is in Australia this week, acknowledged that there was a limited market for the product which is targeted at the big end of town.

The company’s average sized client runs a contact centre with at least 4,000 agents, but many have 15,000-20,000 agents in their call centres. In Australia that means the big banks, insurance companies, telcos and potentially Government departments will be the main sales target for the company.

Internationally just 24 big brand organisations account for the bulk of the company’s revenues.

[24]7’s business model means it is only paid a fee by its customers if it can provide the smarts to allow a customer transaction initiated on the internet to be solved without human beings in the call centre actually talking to the customer. “If they end up talking to a human being we don’t get paid,” said Mr Kannan.

The system works by tracking what someone is doing when they go onto a company website, analysing that for patterns, and then directing the consumer to what appears to be the most useful information. The cloud based service collects 4.5 terabytes of information each week, and handles 2.5 billion customer interactions each year.

When an interaction is successfully concluded online [24]7 gets paid.

At present the service is offered out of data centres in the US, but Mr Kannan said that the company hopes to move into an Australian data centre later this year. The actual data that [24]7 collects does not identify the client “data that uniquely identifies you as a customer is probably not that important to use,” said Mr Kannan.

Instead [24]7 monitors what people are doing online, and has some profile details that might for example identify the user as a new customer, or a credit risk, and use that high level identifying information to point people to the most appropriate information.

Mr Kannan said that by taking the human-to-human conversation out of the equation it was possible for companies to potentially halve the cost of providing customer support.

The company is now working on new customer service applications, expected to be introduced to the iTunes store shortly which extend the service offerings that companies could develop.

Mr Kannan said an app being developed for one of the major US airlines would allow an airline to send an SMS message to a phone when a flight was delayed, and follow that with a link to a website which would allow passengers to book a new flight.

“You can see the different options and it’s location aware. I knows if you are on your way to the airport or at home,” said Mr Kannan.

Ananth Siva, themanaging director of [24]7 in Asia Pacific said that typically a call centre interaction to change a flight might take 20 minutes, where the app should allow customers to complete the activity in about two minutes

Mr Kannan said that the company was now working on apps in a similar vein for banking clients.

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