Davinci promises to reduce call-centre costs

Armed with technology it claims can help wireless providers cut customer service costs and capture new revenue streams, Toronto-based Davinci Technologies Inc. is dialing in to the massive mobile market south of the border.

Davinci claims it has already secured an agreement with one major American carrier, whose identity will remain a secret for the next six weeks. And according to co-founder Alan Lysne, the company has been using the US$3 million it raised in venture capital financing last year to pitch Davinci’s technology to other Tier 1 operators in the U.S.

“All the carriers have spent a fortune building their networks, and they are facing high customer-care costs,” said Lysne, who founded Davinci in 1995 with fellow Andersen Consulting alumni Steven Rodin in 1996.

Lysne said each query made to its call centre costs a carrier five dollars. Multiply that figure by the three-to-10 calls each subscriber makes each year and call centres become expensive propositions, Lysne said.

Davinci claims its mobile care, or m-Care, software can effectively replace a call centre. Users of any of wireless device that connects to the Internet can use m-Care’s data or voice interface to change their address or rate plan, activate new phone features, check account balances, pay bills and correct billing errors. Bell Mobility subscribers are already familiar with m-Care as the carrier has been has been employing the Davinci software for e-bill presentment on wireless phones since 1998. Davinci also counts AT&T Canada, Telus Mobility and Oakille Hydro among its customers.

Davinci recently unveiled software that will allow carriers to identify subscribers who use self-service customer care applications via wireless devices. The technology means carriers could avoid charging subscribers for using these services.

“There’s some customers that are always going to call the call centre and there are others who are going to want to do it in automated fashion,” Lysne said. “We’re just trying to provide an alternative channel.”

Jeremy Depow, a senior analyst with The Yankee Group in Canada said Davinci’s technology should be attractive to carriers looking to contain costs as wireless provision grows to encompass data as well as voice.

“Costs to provide customer service are increasing, especially as (carriers) roll out infrastructure to facilitate data services,” Depow said. “There’s a tremendous amount of potential here.”

Lysne said that by employing the software, which took two to three years to develop, carriers can keep call centres freer for customers whose concerns go beyond what m-Care can accommodate. This gives carriers a tool with which to retain customers in a market with a churn rate of 20 to 30 per cent Lysne said.

But savings is only part of the story, Lysne said. m-Care can also act as a revenue generator for carriers by alerting subscribers of new features they may wish to purchase or encouraging them to pay their bills earlier.

“If you get your entire customer base to pay a day earlier, that’s a lot of revenue potential on interest,” Lysne said. “We’ve never believed that sports scores and stock quotes alone are going to drive up revenues for carriers.”

Lysne added that the day when your cell phone beeps to alert you of a special at Starbucks is still a few years away. He said m-Care can deliver revenues for carriers now, and The Yankee Group’s Depow agreed.

“If this type of product allows you to log onto the wireless Internet and buy prepaid minutes and find out information on services, it certainly will help (carriers),” Depow said.

Still, Lysne admitted some users would only get annoyed with new-features alerts and said Davinci only plans to send messages to customers that request such information on their user profiles.

“If you start spamming people with SMS messages, people are going to get irritated with you and call your call centre to complain and now you’ve just defeated your whole purpose,” Lysne said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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