A second wave of attacks began midday Friday after much of the eastern United States was affected in the morning. Sites affected included Etsy, ...
Sell to your customers as they want to be sold. That’s the decision facing e-retailers over installing live customer service technologies such as Web chat, collaborative browsing and voice over Internet. “These technologies aren’t must-haves as much as tools retailers must use if their customers expect to be served that way,” says Charles Rider, an analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group, Boston. “When there’s a lot of serendipity in the sale, multiple touch points make a big difference, especially with gifts or big-ticket goods.”
The opinions of Internet shoppers bear him out. A recent poll by Harris Interactive found that human contact had a more positive effect on how shoppers rated a site’s customer service than did e-mail messages and frequently asked questions. But that doesn’t rule out using either one, adds Rider, since they handle routine queries at a fraction of the cost of live service. Nor is live service a panacea: A 1998 Intel Corp. survey found that 60% of people who access call centers hang up unhappy.
Aiming to give its customers options for handling their inquiries, casual clothing e-retailer Eddie Bauer has combined various live and static service technologies under the “Ask Eddie” banner. The service’s knowledge base reflects the fact that about 80% of customers ask the same 20% of questions in the database, says Jeff Whitney, vice president of marketing at ServiceSoft, which developed “Ask Eddie.” Customers pose questions in free-text format, and the product uses artificial intelligence to ask clarifying questions to narrow down to an answer.
Customers who want to talk to an agent live can call toll-free or do so in a chat session. “Some people think of self-service as reducing the level of customer service,” says Whitney. “That could not be more incorrect. By offering customers a way to answer the vast amount of questions, you empower them. No one should have to wait for an e-mail or be forced to call.”