Despite the growth of online self-service, call centers remain the most common way for customers to interact with companies. New technologies promise ROI by focusing on the performance of the people who deliver service to the customer-call center agents.Driving customers to the Internet for self-service is an effective way for insurers to reduce the high costs of providing information and processing transactions off-line. The fact is, most customers still prefer to call and talk to a human being-the most expensive customer-service channel.

"We're finding through a lot of analysts' studies that, on average, customers communicate with companies 60% of the time through call centers," says Oscar Alban, principle, market analyst, Witness Systems Inc., an Atlanta-based workforce optimization vendor. Even when customers do use the Internet, he says, more than half the time they finish the transaction on the phone.

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