You could drive by the Charlotte call center and not know it. The center is in an office park in an unmarked, 100,000-square-foot structure that resembles many other modern, two-story office buildings.
Inside, there is a skylit garden area with benches sometimes used for meetings. Call center rooms have brightly colored walls to match the multi-colored berber carpet. I.D. badges are required to enter most areas. That's to protect the confidential nature of the information that passes through the center, OnStar says.
Calls are sent to the center on a three-watt system, which allows subscribers to make calls from areas too remote to process an 0.6-watt cell phone signal.
"It's somewhere between a 15-and 20-second lag between pushing the (vehicle's OnStar) button and the time someone is on the other end of the phone," says Bruce Radloff, OnStar's chief technology officer.
All calls come in via land lines. OnStar uses satellites for the GPS units embedded in each vehicle.
OnStar bought the core software product to call up subscriber information from Chordiant Software Inc. (chordiant.com) of Cupertino, Calif. Chordiant had sales of $73.9 million last year. "We customized them to give us the interface and the data- lookup capabilities," Radloff says.
The Chordiant software works in tandem with OnStar's geographic information system. The package, referred to as OnStar 3.0, is second-generation software. Within the three years, the company is expected to introduce the third generation to improve efficiency.
"Our objective is to get them (subscribers) on the phone and get them off the phone as quickly as we can," Radloff says.
OnStar's software recognizes emergency calls and always gives them top priority. The Charlotte center handles the majority of those calls, using the Troy, Mich., center as backup.
OnStar's internal Web system is called Corona, which advisers and other OnStar personnel use to look up information, such as company procedures and policies, and information on subscriber packages.
To make sure all this technology works even if there is a power outage in Charlotte, the call center relies on three giant generators - nicknamed Bertha, Rosa and Gloria - to make the power transfer seamless.
Weekends and holidays are some of the centers' busiest times.
The Charlotte center is busiest in the early morning, at midday, in the evening and on weekends.