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1/12/2006
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AT&T Bulks Up Customer Service Portal

AT&T is adding a click-to-chat service that makes a customer service rep available with the click of a mouse.

Customer self-service portals offered by technology vendors can be tough to navigate and don't always have the information businesses are looking for. AT&T announced this week it's expanding and adding collaboration features to its Business Direct portal.

The company is adding click-to-chat support for network operators. This means that if operators have a problem with the portal or their networks that they can't solve, a service representative will become available with a click of a mouse. The click-to-chat service logs chats for future reference and includes screen-sharing capabilities that will allow service reps to literally look into customers' problems.

AT&T customers are able to monitor and troubleshoot their entire U.S. telephony network through the portal's network mapping service. AT&T is expanding this worldwide so that network operators will be able to see problems and manage operations in 88 countries.

AT&T says it developed these services after hearing from customers that they wanted more support for worldwide operations and more real-time help. "We're watching how people are learning to use the Internet [and] watched how the click-to-chat capabilities have come on in the business-to-consumer market," says Bob Sloan, AT&T's VP of eSales and eService. L.L. Bean Inc. and other consumer retailers have been using click-to-chat for several years on their Web sites.

Business Direct is an important service for many AT&T business customers. Employees from 458,000 businesses use the portal every month, and usage increased 12 percent last year. AT&T competitor Qwest Communications also has some click-to-chat capabilities built into its Qwest Control customer service portal, while companies like Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard use the technology for marketing to businesses.

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