Teleservice Technology: Both a Benefit and a Bane

TELESERVICE representatives and their managers are facing Ta wave of new technology. Will voice response units, automatic number identification, and intelligent routing upgrade or diminish teleservice jobs? At this point, no one is certain.

Douglas Roberts, a Michigan Bell call center manager, keeps demographic profiles on each central office area represented by the first three digits of a phone number. Calls from certain areas are sent by intelligent routing to teleservice representatives who specialize in products commonly sold there. ``It's a ... help when you're marketing 200 to 300 different products,'' he says.

New technology has been used to relieve teleservice representatives of routine calls such as giving out office hours. Recordings that drone ``If you are calling about X, press Y,'' free representatives to help customers solve problems. Between calls, they may work on market data analysis or other projects.

Yet while some companies use new technology to upgrade service representatives as information specialists, others use it to ``dumb down'' their jobs. They keep tighter reins on their employees, measuring their ``talk time'' and even their key strokes. Some complain that the privacy of employees is being jeopardized by ``silent monitoring'' of their calls. Rep. Pat Williams (D) of Montana conducted hearings on the Privacy for Consumers and Workers Act in June, and will introduce the legislation this fall. Thus far, the bill has 115 co-sponsors.

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