AT&T partners with Accenture in $2.6B outsourcing deal

AT&T Corp. and Accenture Ltd. announced what Betsy Bernard, AT&T Consumer's president and CEO, called a co-sourcing arrangement: a US$2.6 billion, five-year partnership deal between the two companies aimed at decreasing the cost of AT&T's consumer customer care while boosting consumer revenues.

In a telephone conference call this afternoon, Bernard said AT&T's existing customer care and consumer salespeople, which number about 4,300, would continue to directly support AT&T consumer users.

Joe Forehand, chairman and CEO of Hamilton, Bermuda-based Accenture, said his company would provide technical consulting and implementation of advanced interactive voice response (IVR), Web and customer relationship management technologies for the project.

Bill Stake, currently vice president of AT&T Consumer's sales and customer care division, is leading the joint operation and will report to an oversight team that includes both AT&T and Accenture managers, Bernard said. "Both companies are contributing talent, technology, people," she said.

Bernard said that her goal during the next five years is to cut the cost of customer service in half while continuing to increase consumer-derived revenue.

AT&T's existing customer support systems will be part of the new infrastructure being developed by the two companies.

According to sources, the $2.6 billion is a budget pool to be used during the next five years by AT&T, Accenture and any other unspecified vendors that might be tapped to participate.

John Harrington, a managing partner with Accenture's communications industry group, said his company's role will be to implement technologies that ensure that customers are routed to the correct service representative and that the interaction between them is as efficient as possible.

"We're hopeful that customers will become excited about using other channels [for service], such as the Web and IVR," Harrington said.

The co-sourcing arrangement is effective immediately, Bernard said.

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