In 1997, Mike Betzer knew he was on to something big. As vice president of operations and technology at MCI, Betzer and his team realized the time was right to build a huge call center and offer outsourced call center services to small companies.\n\u00a0\nAt first, MCI gave him its blessing and the funds to complete the project. But when WorldCom entered the picture, it had other priorities, so Betzer quit to start his own company, Ineto.In 1997, Mike Betzer knew he was on to something big. As vice president of operations and technology at MCI, Betzer and his team realized the time was right to build a huge call center and offer outsourced call center services to small companies.\u00a0At first, MCI gave him its blessing and the funds to complete the project. But when WorldCom entered the picture, it had other priorities, so Betzer quit to start his own company, Ineto.Of the 77,000 call centers in the U.S., 70,000 of them have 200 agents or less, according to analyst firm DataMonitor. Big companies, such as Ineto customers Kodak, Pizza Hut and Nine West, have small call centers -customer care departments with 20 or 40 agents. Often, they also have a distributed environment - two or three small centers in different parts of the country."Small call centers typically have a 2-year-old switch in a closet with wires hanging off it," Betzer says. "Call centers just aren't their business."\u00a0Ineto formally launched in 2000, with a data center at carrier Broadwing's facility in Austin, Texas.\u00a0 The Ineto system is built around a carrier-grade phone switch from Intecom; dialog voice cards; an application called eTalk that records transactions; and RightNow, a CRM application that provides e-mail collaboration, self help and a knowledge base. Tying the pieces together is Ineto's custom application, which provides unique routing and management features that make it easy for Ineto's clients to handle spikes in call volume, and to send agents home to work, either as part of a virtual agent program or business continuity strategy.In a typical scenario, Ineto provides a client with new 800 numbers or has the existing numbers routed to its facility. For example, when a Nine West customer calls the 800 number, the call comes to the Ineto call center and is routed to the Nine West agent, regardless of location. Agents can work for the company (such as Nine West), a traditional agent outsource company like TeleTech, a virtual agent outsourcer like Working Solutions or an overseas call center like India's Icon Data Management.One Ineto client, a fitness product vendor that runs infomercials, has 12 in-house agents. When infomercials run, the company's call volume spikes. The Ineto software automatically routes overflow calls to agents who work for Working Solutions, which has 16,000 work-at-home agents.Another client, Kodak, has 20 agents in its San Francisco offices. Last summer, when the company learned two hours in advance the area would experience a rolling blackout, it sent the agents home to work. Because the Ineto application includes a self-administration page, the supervisor was able to enter each agent's profile and add a home phone number. Upon returning home, agents logged on to Ineto's intranet and selected their home phone number from the drop-down box. The Ineto system would see an agent logged on, and once the phone number was selected, begin routing calls.\u00a0\u00a0No equipment sits at the customer premises. And since the Ineto application is Web-based, the agent's PC doesn't require client software. Ineto charges $2,500 to $10,000 for setup, then a per-minute charge per call. Today, Ineto has 60 clients, and last year saw 500% growth.Interestingly, Ineto partners with both overseas call centers such as Icon, as well as virtual call centers like Working Solutions. Next week, we'll examine the hot topic of U.S. companies sending call center jobs overseas. Betzer has some strong opinions on this, as do others in the industry.