NTL is to offer a hosted IP multimedia Contact Centre Service (CCS) for companies with call centres.
The communications giant claims that the service will provide easier management, and will reduce overheads, queuing and customer churn without the need to build new infrastructure.
NTL said that its CCS offering will enable disparate sites to operate as one virtual call centre and will deliver advanced call management, routing and control capabilities via the company's national backbone.
"In the UK there are 5,000 call centres with around 400,000 employees," said Peter Booth, marketing director for NTL. "They're growing at a rate of around 11 per cent a year and form an integral part of the economy, so streamlining the process by improving management and the end user experience is a key issue."
The system uses IP-enabled technology from Cisco and Compaq. Booth said that CCS can be integrated into a wide variety of existing premise-based automatic call distribution and interactive voice response systems, which will enable companies to maximise existing resources without having to migrate to IP-based infrastructures.
NTL said that implementation would usually take less than two weeks and that one week's training for the nominated managers at the customer end was offered.
The company gave no pricing details, but did say that it was also to launch its Enhanced Freephone and Special Rate Services product to make the CCS available to smaller companies.
According to analyst group Ovum, the world market for network-based call centres will be worth more than $3.5bn by 2005, representing a sixth of all call centre system supply revenues.
IP telephony resellers are banking on the contact centre, with one player, Dimension Data, labelling multimedia contact centres as the "killer application" of IP telephony.
"We've all been playing up IP telephony for the last few years, but now the technology is up to a standard that enterprises can benefit from," said Simon Boyle, marketing manager for Dimension Data. "I believe we will see the multimedia contact centre as an enterprise-wide application seeing great interest over the next 12 months."
Analysts backed the idea, and other companies such as BT are looking into similar hosted services, but success depends on a good level of service.
"In theory, the business case is strong," said David Bradshaw, a lead analyst with market watcher Ovum. "It's a decent concept, but it will stand or fall according to the level of service that NTL can provide."
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