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ISDN allows AAA to handle 43% more calls with same staff.

The last thing that drivers who call the American Automobile Association want to hear, when their car is broken down on the highway far from home, is that they have to make a second phone call to get help.

But that was what callers had to put up with before AAA revamped its calling procedures, basing the customer-friendly improvements on ISDN.

Bob Galovic, director of telecommunications information systems, described AAA's use of ISDN to a crowd of potential users. They were gathered in Atlanta for BellSouth's introduction of its ESSX ISDN service.

Galovic told how the AAA nationwide "Supernumber for motorists brings all call traffic to the group's Heathrow, Fla., headquarters. Automatic identification of the incoming caller's number speeds the process of getting help.

For instance, a Miami motorist whose car has broken down on an Atlanta expressway can call the Supernumber, and the call is instantly identified by area code and exchange. Callers touchtone their way to a transfer directly to the AAA club or authorized service provider serving that area.

It used to be that callers had to identify themselves to the AAA live agent and then provide their location--but some people couldn't be specific about that since they were in unfamiliar territory.

The agent would try to figure out the serving AAA garage or club and provide that number to the caller. It was up to the stranded motorist to make a second call for service.

Now callers need to make just one call. An interactive voice response system greets the caller, and it can take information and transfer the call, so that the first human the caller talks to is a local source of service. That saves time and trouble for the stranded motorist and provides more complete service.

Callers always have the option of transferring to a live agent, and those callers whose number ID doesn't accompany the call are automatically connected to live agents.

ISDN has clearly helped AAA handle far more calls without adding agents to its staff. Galovic's figures show call volume up 43% from June 1990 to June 1991--growing from 81,399 calls to 116,465. The voice response unit handled almost all of that growth--34,168 calls--as calls that ended up answered by agents grew a mere 1.2%.

The abandoned call rate was 10% in June 1990 and just 2% in June 1991. It drops below 1% in less-busy seasons, Galovic noted. Also, average call duration is 1 to 1.3 minutes, just about half what it used to be.

AAA has primary rate service from AT&T and MCI into the Lake Mary, Fla., central office's DMS-100 switch. There is basic rate service to 16 workstations, with terminal emulation to an IBM System 38.

Sixteen agents can handle 32 calls at a time, 16 active on one of the B channels and the rest diverted into voice response cards via the other B channel.

BellSouth's offering

What BellSouth is rolling out is ISDN service for ESSX centrex customers in states where ISDN tariffs have been approved.

So far, this includes Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. Regulatory actions are pending in six other states.

As far as prices go, BellSouth is saying that the average price for an ESSX 2B+D line will run around $65.

This is the first step in what BellSouth promises will be an accelerated pace for ISDN in the Southeast. Megalink (primary rate ISDN) service and single-line ISDN are waiting in the wings for introduction this year, and broadband services will follow. The company says most metropolitan areas will have ISDN by 1994, which will account for somewhere between 50% and 60% of all access lines.

About 50 representatives from potential user companies throughout the RBOC's region participated in a day-long introduction of the ISDN service.

Softpedaling ISDN

It was interesting that as BellSouth began its introduction ceremony for centrex-based ISDN, you hardly heard use of the acronym itself.

W.F. Reddersen, president of BellSouth Business Systems, explained why:

"You'll notice I talked 10 minutes, 18 pages worth, and never said ISDN once. We have been hung up on a terminology for eight or 10 years. That terminology is now irrelevant; we can talk about the platform and the applications without getting hung up on the terminology."

Jere A. Drummond, president of marketing for BellSouth Telecommunications, confessed that the RBOC once had a "Field of Dreams" philosophy about ISDN.

"We believed that if you build it, they will come. Quite frankly, we built it and they didn't come. We needed to work with you as customers to come up with applications."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:ISDN Forum; Integrated Services Digital Network, American Automobile Association
Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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