DHL Worldwide Express, a leading shipment company for the financial industry, has developed an automated telephone tracking system that allows senders to track the status of document shipments anywhere in the world.

The Global Track Phone Access system, built with software from Edify Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., uses interactive voice response technology for callers with tone telephones.

To get the status of packages, a customer calls DHL's 800 number, and enters up to five DHL Airbill numbers. An automated voice prompts users through the process, and reports on the status of packages. Callers are told the date and time a package arrived, and who signed for it. A fax copy of this information can be requested and sent to callers. The system also tells customers if a package was not deliverable, and allows them to ring through to an agent to resolve any problems.

Tracking documents is critical to the financial industry, said Alan Boehme, DHL senior marketing manager, particularly because of the sensitivity of the documents being shipped, such as letters of credit and financial prospectuses.

The banking community represents about 10% of the documents that are tracked through the DHL network, more than double that of other industries, he said.

The company decided to develop a tracking system based on the telephone because "although many customers have personal computers, they don't always have modems," said Mr. Boehme, adding that the phone and fax are the most often used business tools.

Rolled out in July, the system is handling 3,000 calls a day, about 65% of the company's overall tracking requests, said Mr. Boehme. The system is accessible in most major cities, and remaining customers will have access by mid-October, said Mr. Boehme.

About 80% of the time, the automated system can provide the requested information, he said, with an agent handling the more difficult 20%. As calls are being transferred, the system simultaneously informs the agent of the problem, so there is no need for customers to repeat information.

DHL has just expanded its overnight document service -- for banks with either headquarters or branch offices in the New York area -- to 100 destinations in Europe, Mexico, South America, and Canada because the international banking community has seen a sharp rise in documents moving internationally, said company officials.

For financial industry shipments, DHL flies its own helicopter between New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and the downtown heliport. It uses both its own aircraft and commercial carriers from JFK, and is one of the largest cargo customers of the airlines, receiving priority space on almost all flights.

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