Company takes State's Spanish calls

The voice may say "State Department," but the speaker actually will be an employee of TeleTech Holdings Inc.

Under a contract awarded to Denver-based TeleTech by Computer Sciences Corp., TeleTech will route Spanish-language calls for U.S. visa information and applications to a communications center in Leon, Mexico.

"People will have no idea they're talking to a TeleTech employee," said Elizabeth Johnson, a spokeswoman for TeleTech. "They're trained well to represent the company they're representing effectively."

TeleTech's agreement with CSC has a one-year base period and nine one-year options, for a total value of $100 million, according to TeleTech. Under the contract, CSC will provide integration, program management and an operational interface with State's Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Johnson said the Mexico center will handle calls from Spanish speakers in other countries, including El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Because the routing will be seamless, the callers will not even know they have been connected to the Mexico center.

When calling the number for a local U.S. consulate or embassy, people will be prompted to indicate whether they prefer to speak in English or Spanish. If they indicate Spanish, the call will be routed to Mexico, she said.

Eventually, TeleTech will set up foreign language visa application centers in Europe.

Giving callers the opportunity to speak with people in their native language should speed the application process, Johnson said. The TeleTech workers will be trained to handle visa-related questions, provide information and set up appointments with callers at their local U.S. consulate, she said.

While the service will be voice-only to start, she said the company might introduce electronic services in the future.

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