The long distance phone company has extended the offerings of its telemarketing wing, Sprint Telecenters, to help businesses respond to email questions and requests for information received on company Web sites. Depending on the type of response requested by a user, Sprint telemarketers will take email messages forwarded by a company and either email a reply to the customer, call the customer back, or send information through regular mail.
According to Sprint, some businesses have been taken by surprise by rising numbers of inquiries received over the Internet and want to out-source more support to trained telemarketing organizations.
"Trying to fulfill [electronic] responses can be an insurmountable job, especially if you're short-staffed," said Julie Lubel, a Sprint spokeswoman. "This is a new niche."
Although Sprint's goal is to aid businesses, this and other comparable services could raise sensitive privacy issues as user email addresses are compiled into databases for mass marketing over the Net, a practice often negatively referred to as spamming.
Sprint officials confirmed plans to keep track of user email addresses but will leave the use of the databases up to its customers. "We will keep a database of the inquiries we receive so that the company can take advantage of future marketing opportunities," Lubel said. "But it will be up to the companies to decide how to use the database."