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Breaking Boundaries

CiDirect opens Spanish-English bilingual call center to extend support to the industry for underserved market.

In response to inquiries from existing clients such as Los Angeles-based Farmers New World Life regarding a lack of options for Spanish-speaking insurance customers, customer care service provider CiDirect, a unit of Atlanta-based ZC Sterling (a subsidiary of Zurich Financial Services Group; $48.9 billion in premium), opened a Spanish-English bilingual call center in Taos, N.M., for insurance sales and services. The center houses 23 bilingual employees fully trained in P&C and life and health business lines.

"Farmers New World Life felt that if we could offer Spanish-speaking customers the option of speaking to an agent in Spanish or English, they would appreciate hearing about our offer of term life insurance, which would, in turn, provide a more positive response from both policyholders and agents," says Paul Ziats, life marketing manager, Farmers New World Life. CiDirect eventually plans to expand the center, employing as many as 150 people.

"We've gone through extensive research and discovered an overall market need for a licensed agent contact center for people that are predominantly Spanish-speaking," says Mary Bro, president and CEO of CiDirect. "We found that the Spanish-speaking population is underserved for insurance services."

To expand into the South West, Harlan, Iowa-based CiDirect replicated its existing Iowa facility. CiDirect powers its new call center with the same software-based call system - Customer Interaction Center (CIC) from Interactive Intelligence (Indianapolis) - that it selected for its Iowa center in 1998, after having reviewed products from Nortel and other traditional telecommunications vendors.

"CIC is an open architecture [with which] we can interface with just about anybody else's system, and we're not limited to just the phone - we also have e-mail, fax-on-demand and Internet text chat, allowing us to be more than just a phone center," Bro relates.

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