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May 1999


E-Sales -- E-Service.com: A New Section For An Evolving Industry

BY MATTHEW VARTABEDIAN, TECHNOLOGY EDITOR, C@LL CENTER SOLUTIONS

You may be surprised to see an "e" in what has traditionally been a call center-oriented magazine (i.e., telephony). But as I'll explain, our inclusion of an e-sales and e-service section, which will be a monthly feature from this time forward, is not really all that odd.

But before we begin, as I learned long ago in a college philosophy course, let's define our terms. (If you disagree with these definitions, let me know at ccspress@tmcnet.com.) There are two basic flavors of e-commerce:

  • Business-to-consumer (b-to-c) e-commerce - This category represents the business of selling consumer goods over the Internet, or e-tailing, as it's starting to be called.
  • Business-to-business (b-to-b) e-commerce - This category represents the electronic business conducted between a manufacturing company, for example, and its suppliers. Order placements, requisitions, fulfillment, payment - all the everyday, paper-generating, maddening bureaucratic complexities of life in corporate America - can be minimized and made easier and more cost-efficient through the adoption of b-to-b e-commerce solutions. This category of products and processes represents the unfulfilled promise of EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), which is an older, "standard" format for exchanging electronic business data. Despite being a great idea, EDI never really took off. As a technology, EDI may very well be replaced by XML (eXtensible Markup Language), HTML's (HyperText Markup Language) possible successor.

In creating a new section, we felt it was important to select a word (or phrase) that defined the section's intent. E-commerce, we felt, wouldn't work because it tends to focus attention on the transaction itself. While the point-of-sale is important, pre-sale, post-sale, service, marketing and ongoing relationship-building functions, all core elements of the customer/company lifecycle (and integral parts of this magazine's coverage), are excluded.

E-business is a great term, but, alas, IBM coined it (or if they didn't, they might as well have) and uses it to great effect. E-business, essentially, is the conduct of business on the Internet, not only buying and selling, but also servicing customers and collaborating with business partners - and so it incorporates b-to-b and b-to-c e-commerce.

After sparring internally with varied, but equally clumsy, catch-phrases, our group publisher Rich Tehrani suggested the name you see before you in logo form (you have to have a neat logo) - E-Sales -- E-Service.com. While a tad long, this name summarizes everything we intend to accomplish with this new section, specifically:

  • An emphasis on sales and service, from a horizontal perspective, spanning, therefore, vertical sectors (financial, technology, telecom) and e-tailing and b-to-b issues. Whether your customers are internal or external, both kinds need to be sold and serviced. E-tailers will tend to make those processes "glitzier," while in b-to-b implementations, companies will tend to focus on cost-saving, efficiency-creating deployments that enable quick and easy access to the information/process required.
  • An emphasis on the Internet as "just another" inbound/outbound customer contact channel, albeit newer and with great, largely untapped, potential. We believe, perhaps predictably, that all Internet interactions should be handled by the call center. There are lots of reasons for this (which I won't go into right now) that should become self-evident as you pick up each successive issue of C@LL CENTER Solutions.

With all that said, our goal is to provide editorial coverage (staff-written columns, news and vendor-contributed articles) that spans the two areas detailed above with one overriding goal: To present you with a solid idea of how your call center can be used to not only help your company as a whole get in better touch with its customers, but also how to leap onto the "e-bandwagon" in a sensible, intelligent manner. Please keep us posted on how you think we're doing - your ideas, comments and opinions are welcome. Send them to ccspress@tmcnet.com.







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