February 27, 2002, 12:00 AM

Virtual agent cuts costs at Buy, boosts sales at Dell

Finali Corp. prepares to roll out its NetSage virtual-agent technology at Dell, AT&T and Sabre.com after the agents cut costs at Buy.com.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor


The first results in from Buy.com’s automated online agent, a creation of Finali Corp., showed that the virtual customer service representative significantly reduced Buy’s cost of customer care. But guess what: the automated figures, dubbed "NetSages" by Finali, can do more than reduce cost -- they can increase sales as well.

One of the largest online tests of Final’s Net Sage technology to date, a pilot for the online arm of computer manufacturer Dell, ran a head-to-head comparison of the behavior of online shoppers who were given the opportunity to interact with a NetSage designed specifically for Dell in making a purchase vs. consumers who weren`t. The NetSage, a virtual agent created from hundreds of stills grabbed from video of an actor performing various tasks, is powered by technology that changes the figure’s pose and facial expression appropriately as it interacts with shoppers in text. Preliminary figures show that those who interacted with the NetSage had an average order size that was $50 greater, and their willingness to accept product recommendations offered online doubled with the presence of the Sage.

At Buy.com, which implemented a NetSage last summer, the changing expression and poses of the human figure that both prompts and responds to online shopper approximates a human conversation to such a degree that it’s reduced customer contact center costs from about 2% to less than 1% of revenues, and has deflected about 23% of the customer e-mail queries that would otherwise require a live human response.

Finali and Dell are preparing to implement a NetSage feature on Dell’s web site within the next several weeks. Finali also is developing NetSages for AT&T; and online travel services provider Sabre.com.



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