Webline: A Web-based Call Center

Internet-enabled communication capabilities within the sales and service areas of a company can give an organization a leg up on competitors. WebLine Communications Corp. (Burlington, Mass., www.webline.com) hopes to provide that leg up with its WebLine Java-based application, designed to enable users to visually interact with remote customers over the Web during a telephone call.

Webline enables users to offer voice-enabled human assistance to remote prospects or customers while delivering Web-based content, navigating callers around the Web, demonstrating applications and transferring downloadable files. The WebLine server can be used standalone or integrated with automatic call distributors, voice-over-IP (VOIP) gateways or other telephony systems via an open API.

Jesper Novin, emerging technologies manager with Oracle Corp.'s Direct Marketing Division (DMD, Redwood Shores, Calif.) and project manager for DMD's implementation of WebLine, was intrigued by WebLine's merging of the Web and call-routing system. He points out that for telesales software, there are essentially three kinds of tools: presentation-only tools; more advanced educational tools that let you share apps and maybe provide dual interaction; and finally, Web call centers focused on merging the call center with the Web. With WebLine, developers can create a call button on the Web, whose request then gets passed to the phone system, which can locate an agent to dial the customer back. This enables both visual and audio contact with the end user.

According to WebLine, administrators can configure the product for a two-line environment containing separate voice and data connections or a single-line environment that supports VOIP. In the latter, the remote client can click on a WebLine button and download a Java applet to connect to the company agent.

For thin client fans, WebLine requires only a Java-enabled browser on the agent and on the remote client's computer. It supports session connection via Web page "meet me" invitations or Web site call-back requests. Multicasting capabilities enable one-to-one or one-to-many communication, and users can selectively add or remove callers from a WebLine session.

WebLine's customizable scripting interface enables users to build HTML-defined scripts for such items as logic-based scenarios or general overview guidelines. Agents click on links within a script to deliver Web content -- including pages, forms, images, applets or files -- to the remote client. Web page sharing enables agents to navigate clients to any site. In addition, clients can send application screens from any Windows desktop application to the agent's browser.

WebLine's conferencing module enables delivery of Web-based presentations during audio teleconferences. A script creation tool converts Microsoft PowerPoint presentations to HTML for uploading to the WebLine server.

Users can track all WebLine session activity and can generate reports regarding session length and Web pages shared. When integrated with automatic call distributors, WebLine enables managers to generate one report to provide both telephony and WebLine session information.

The product works with existing firewall configurations. It provides password-protected remote administration through the Web browser. A diagnostic tool automatically monitors and reports on the status of network congestion.

"WebLine has a very flexible interface -- it's an HTML interface," says Oracle DMD's Novin. "You can put in basically whatever you want. Also, the company itself is very flexible, and put in a lot of resources to meet our needs."

Oracle DMD's sales consultants also use WebLine to conduct virtual seminars for customers interested in Oracle Web Developer Suite and Oracle8 products.