Instant messaging boosts service at Texas call center

Instant messaging boosts service at Texas call center

Instant messaging lets call center employees query their colleagues for information without interrupting the conversation they're having with a caller.

'Thanks for calling, please hold.' Eight minutes of the greatest hits of Muzak later, and most callers are ready to scream, if not hang up.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission wants to reduce those dropped calls and lonely waits on hold for its park reservations customers. For two years the commission's central reservation center in Austin has been using an instant messaging tool that Texas officials say improves customer service.

NetLert Version 1.0 from NetLert Communications Inc. of Asheville, N.C., lets users send alert messages over pop-up windows. Written in Java, NetLert is compatible with Microsoft Windows, Unix, Linux, Solaris and Macintosh platforms, company officials said.

NetLert lets reservations agents communicate with other commission employees without having to interrupt calls, said Robert Moss, customer services director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

Beats e-mail

Say somebody in the call center gets a question from Citizen Jones that they don't have a response for. While still talking with Jones, the reservation agent can get the answer from someone more knowledgeable in a few seconds by using NetLert.

The NetLert Message Server harvests call statistics from the commission's phone switch from Nortel Networks Corp. of Brampton, Ontario, Moss said. The application runs on a 266-MHz PC. 'Performance has not been an issue,' Moss said.

One hundred commission employees use NetLert, Moss said. Training was minimal, as NetLert comes with a good help module, he said.

NetLert is easier than e-mail for writing short notes, Moss said. 'It's also more likely that the agents will see the message since it pops up in the middle of their screens,' Moss said.

Also runs on cell phones and pagers

Most agents run NetLert on 600-MHz PCs from ClearCube Technology of Austin, Moss said.

NetLert can be customized to alert customers of certain information or criteria, said Danny Councell, president of NetLert. It can send weather alerts or inventory information, Councell said. NetLert can deliver information over pop-up PC window, cell phone or pager.

Most messaging software costs $10,000 or more, Councell said. The whole NetLert suite costs about $5,000.

And NetLert's Java foundations make it work with any kind of database, Councell said. 'We haven't run into one we can't access yet,' he said.

Moss is testing a Web version of NetLert that will be released Dec. 31.

Customers are very interested in NetLert's security features, Councell said. Not only does it provide Secure Sockets Layer protocol but 'it lets you lock out certain people or divisions,' he said.

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