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VoIP Connection
April 2000

Lior Haramaty

 

Options Aplenty In E-Commerce CRM

A Technical Overview of Web Customer Care Systems

BY LIOR HARAMATY


E-commerce Web sites are now addressing customer care by incorporating new features such as talk, chat, callback, page pushing, joint form filling, and joint browsing. In this column, I will provide an overview of how Web customer systems work and how they can impact your e-commerce experience.

E-commerce Web sites are now addressing customer care by incorporating new features such as talk, chat, callback, page pushing, joint form filling and joint browsing. In this column, I will provide an overview of how Web customer systems work and how they can impact your e-commerce experience.

Talk
The ability to have voice conversations from your PC to a call center can now be initiated from an e-commerce Web site. While surfing one of your favorite e-commerce sites, you run into a great gizmo. But you can�t find its dimensions, and frankly, if it doesn�t fit in your pocket, you don�t want it. How do you find out? Aha! There�s a button on the Web page labeled, �Call us from your PC.� Cool. Let�s click it.

Once you click on the icon, one of two things will happen. If this is the first time using this feature, the Web application that enables the audio conversation will be downloaded and installed automatically on the computer. Depending on your Internet connection speed and the size of the application, the download can take from a few seconds to a few minutes. If this is not the first time that this feature is used, there is no need for a download. The application is already there, and the call is placed immediately. Once the application initiates a connection, your PC�s audio capabilities transmit real-time voice and audio over the Internet to a VoIP gateway. The gateway connects the call to a company�s call center. At that point, a call center agent answers the call the same way as he or she would a call originating from a regular phone. You might wait in the call queue but once the agent answers the regular phone, you are able to converse with the agent using only your headset or the PC�s microphone and speakers.

Chat
What if you need to spell your last name for the agent, but you have a lot of Ns and Ms in it and you prefer to write it for him? Or, what if you just don�t have a microphone connected to your machine? Text chat provides a solution that allows you and the agent to communicate by typing to each other.

Callback
Another way to talk to an agent is the old fashioned way � over the phone. From an e-commerce site, you can request a callback (often at a time of your choosing) by typing your number into a field on the Web page. The system will initiate a call from a call center agent to your regular telephone. If you would like to stay online during the call you will either need two phone lines � one for the traditional voice call and one for the online connection � or else you must disconnect your Internet connection to take the call.

Page Pushing
Say you are talking to a call center agent from a Web page and the agent decides that what you really need is not a gizmo, but something else, a thingamajig. With page pushing, the agent can simply �push� a Web page with all the necessary thingamajig information directly to your PC. The desired page appears on your browser without you having to find the page yourself. The enabler for this feature, push technology, is built into the customer-side browser, enabling your browser to receive pushed pages.

Joint Form Filling
This feature is extremely useful when a user has difficulties filling in a form. The agent can help by seeing exactly what the user is doing. The agent can assist by keying in information to fields for the user where the user can see what the agent is doing. The system keeps both screens synchronized, updating client and agent changes on both parties� browsers.

Joint Browsing
This feature enables a call center agent and a user, or two users, to surf Web pages together. Both can control the session and, once again, this joint Web surfing is completely synchronized. Technically, this can be done in two ways. The simple way is just making sure that the two browsers point at the same page. The other way is to have a special server in the middle that has �intelligence� in it and can handle more complicated situations when Web sites are personalized or have advanced features in them.

These features can come in a variety of user friendly and application efficiencies. They can be purchased as a product or as a service. The value: They all contribute to the improvement of e-commerce customer service and interaction and enable merchants to increase revenue and differentiate their service.

Lior Haramaty is a co-founder of VocalTec Communications, currently serving as Senior Vice President, and he belongs to the original group that started the VoIP industry. Haramaty has a multidisciplinary background in the business, technology, and marketing fields, is a co-inventor on VoIP patents, and has initiated and spearheaded standards activities in the industry. Requests for future column subjects are welcomed. Please write to lior@vocaltec.com.







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