Canada Post has put in the place the first piece of technology infrastructure that will allow it to launch a national consumer information service early next year.
The nation’s mail carrier has developed a service called
Fetch which allows consumers to gather details about a product or service by “fetching” it from a variety of sources: TV, radio, Internet, print advertising or billboards. The ads will enable consumers to “fetch” information about a product from a specified Web site, call centre, e-mail address or text message.
Canada Post will be partnering with a range of consumer companies, telecommunications providers and financial institutions who will feature the Fetch logo on their advertising. A billboard for BMW, for example, might have a phone number listed next to the Fetch logo if someone wants to learn more about one of their cars.
The difference between this and a call centre or Web site operated by BMW, said Scott Nowlan, executive director of Fetch, is that BMW will never have access to the consumer’s personal information. Fetch essentially acts as the intermediary between the advertiser and the consumer — delivering product information on demand but shielding the consumer’s identity from the advertiser.
“There’s a whole consumer privacy play around this,” said Nowlan. “It’s brings control of how you respond to advertising into your hands. (Today), if you go onto the Web and find out information, you always have to give up some of your personal information. This way you still get to respond to any brand or any advertising but you choose how you do it and you know your personal information will never be shared.”
Fetch has set up its own call centre to handle the consumer inquiries and will be using Telus’s CallCentreAnywhere product as the technology backbone. CallCentreAnywhere, is an IP-based service that is hosted by Telus and accessed by Fetch’s call centre operators over the Internet.
The advantage of the solution is that negates the need for costly infrastructure, said Stan Tyo, vice-president of Telus’s contact centre business.
“A lot of the smaller customers tend not to go down the path of putting in expensive call centres because they think they can’t afford to be able to spend the money on the infrastructure. CallCentreAnywhere plays right into that marketplace,” he said.
Nowlan wouldn’t specify how many call centre operators Fetch will employ at the service’s launch next year, but said the operation will start small and add staff over a growth period of five years.
It was the potential cost-savings that drew Fetch and Canada post to the product, he added. “Anywhere where we can leverage applications that we don’t have to own or maintain, that’s compelling to our business model.”
Canada Post conducted a 10-week trial of Fetch in the Calgary area using Telus’s call centre product earlier this year. Twelve companies participated in the trial, including Domino’s Pizza, Shoppers Drug Mart and H&R Block. Nowlan wouldn’t say how many of those companies would be participating in the national launch of Fetch, but that Canada Post is currently in discussions with many of them.
Canada Post is an early adopter of CallCentreAnywhere, but Telus already has about $12 million in contract orders for the product, said Tyo.
“There seems to be a latent demand for this type of service. We’re not getting turned away at all. In fact, most of the customers are quite eager to start talking about hosting the technology piece of this,” he said.
CallCentreAnywhere also allows a call centre operator to work from a remote office or from home — calls are routed to their location via an IP connection. They can also access a customer database through the same connection, provided they have high-speed broadband.
Nowlan said that the ability to locate Fetch call centre operators off-site isn’t currently a consideration but could be in the future. He added that Canada Post is in discussions with other providers for Fetch infrastructure pieces like routing text messages and e-mail responses.