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Deutsche Telekom Signs VocalTec for Customer Service Center

Net telephony player VocalTec Communications Ltd. this week inked a deal with Deutsche Telekom AG to bring its platform to the German telecom's freecall Online program.

Under the terms of the deal, Deutsche Telekom will pay $11 million for an application service hosting platform for its Net-based call center. Deutsche Telekom expects to roll out the new service over the next 18 months, and intends to begin introduction as soon as the second quarter.

The companies claim that the deployment will be the largest yet for a customer care program, and said that the project represent the next phase of an extending relationship between Deutsche Telekom (DT) and VocalTec (VOCL). The existing contract for collaborative efforts will expire on March 31

The solution will support Deutsche Telekom's online shopping forays by providing customer assistance with various interactive means of solving a shopper's dilemma.

Customer service reps will be able to access PCs to jointly navigate through an e-commerce Web site with a shopper or go through forms together, as well as adding text chat and voice support even if the customer is limited to a single Net connection.

"This is the missing link in enhanced e-commerce," said Mark Winther, group vice president of Worldwide Telecom for International Data Corp. "Despite the advantages of online shopping, there is a lack of personal touch in customer service."

Winther added that he believes VocalTec is in a "strong position" to lead the online customer support market.

Karlheinz Jost, Head of the Group Business Area Special Value-Added Services for Deutsche Telekom, said that the company's Surf&Call Center platform is prepared and that the new features are expected to be quickly added to the menu.

Deutsche Telekom debuted the freecall Online in July, expanding its toll free customer support to the Web. According to the company, the online support was tapped by users from more than 350 e-commerce sites in the first four months of operation. The Surf&Call Center was the basis for the freecall Online service, and uses the VocalTec Ensemble Architecture.