WorldCom opens customer service center

WorldCom launched an online customer care center Tuesday, permitting its clients to monitor their network status and complete administrative tasks over the Internet.

The portal allows customers to order services over the Internet. It also provides system analysis tools for customers to track how traffic flows along their data, Internet and voice networks. Customers will also be able to monitor service level agreements and modify network connections in response to changes in network use.

Most of the applications are free, but a fee is charged for a few of them. Some kinds of network event monitoring carry monthly charges, ranging from US$150 to $200 a month.

"We have two tiers -- a base level package and a premium package," said Mike Marcellin, director of electronic customer relationship management marketing. "The vast majority of customers will primarily use the free services. Larger customers will make more use of the premium services. That's certainly what we expect."

The customer center supports orders and management of accounts for Internet service, IP VPN (Internet Protocol virtual private network), Web hosting, Web center, IP communications, frame relay, ATM (asynchronous transfer mode), and enterprise voice products.

Online provisioning is a long-term cost cutting goal for many carriers. By automating the ordering process, WorldCom needs to employ fewer service personnel to staff phones. The process isn't human free, yet, Marcellin said.

"A lot of what we do is prequalification and filling out the forms online. You can initiate the entire order online, and then watch it flow through the system," he said. "The challenge is that there is some fairly technical information that the customer would have to know in order to be completely automated."

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