Sprint and Big Blue sign five-year agreement

IBM and Sprint on Wednesday announced a five-year customer service deal -- a move Sprint is hoping will improve its consumer services.

As part of the deal, IBM will take over systems management of Sprint's vendor-managed call centers across the U.S., and will assume full management of Sprint's Nashville-based PCS call center.

Additionally, Sprint will make investments in IBM technology to improve working environments for its thousands of call center agents.

According to Gary Forsee, chairman and CEO of Sprint, the co-sourcing agreement will save Sprint an estimated US$550 million over the next three years in customer service cost reductions.

"Sprint looked at doing this on our own (versus) doing it with a partner and we decided that in order to implement these initiatives...on an integrated basis, (a partner) was best-suited," Forsee said during a conference call on Wednesday. "We selected IBM...for their in-depth technology, their experience and process redesign, their scale, and also their experience in running contact centers for companies inside the industry and outside the industry."

IBM Global Services senior vice-president and group executive Doug Elix said there are two parts to the announcement for IBM: to work with Sprint to transform the way it provides customer service in order to become more customer-centric; and to form an alliance to create new demand in the marketplace.

"(To have growth) in this market, you have to get out and create (demand)," Elix said. "We are taking ideas that are very specific to industry issues that customers face like making salesforces more productive or maintenance operations more efficient, and are combining the wireless and wireline capabilities of Sprint with our own abilities around applications and technology to create demand in the marketplace."

In order to do this, Sprint is adopting IBM's Service Provider Delivery Environment (SPDE) -- an architectural framework and a set of software elements that make it easier for telecommunications providers to deliver various functions in network service to the customer set.

"Our employees have been frustrated with the number of systems they have to sign into to help customers," Forsee said. "Now they are getting an integrated desktop they can sign into."

While Sprint assured it is not planning to announce any layoffs as a result of the co-sourcing arrangement, Forsee noted that employees in Sprint's Nashville contact center will become IBM employees. Sprint said it will continue to operate its remaining customer contact centers in the U.S., while IBM handles the systems management.

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