Every company that sells a product using a catalog and a toll-free phone number is trying to push that business to the Web. But many are seeing their profit margins erode in the process, as they give up the chance to upsell callers — or give up customers who are frustrated by the online experience — altogether.
The fix might lie in Voice-over-IP software that meshes the customers online experience with the support of a call center operator. Acapel is early to market with an integrated software system, Kisara for Siebel Systems eBusiness Applications, that rolled out earlier this summer.
The old toll-free customer service solution was open season for upsellers.
"When people start to use the Web and have some problem — like they dont know how to manipulate the registration form — if youre lucky, theyll end up in your call center. If youre unlucky, they end up with a competitor," says Ron Gill, chief operating officer of Acapel in San Jose.
Acapels software links the service representatives screen and the customers e-commerce experiences.
Users that hit a rough spot on a Kisara-enabled Web site are prompted to "click here" to reach an operator. The system runs a quick diagnostic to make sure the customers computer is outfitted with a microphone, sound card and speaker, and then cues up the call to the call center agent. On the agent side, the Siebel software signals the rep, and then a screen pops up that includes the Web page the customer is looking at and all the data that has been entered on the page.
Kisara, already in use in Japan at www.sonystyle.co.jp, generates the myriad statistics that call center managers live and breathe for, works in circuit-switched environments and is ready for the IP call center of the future, Gill says.