Search engine Ask Jeeves has launched a business service to help companies ramp up their lagging Web-based customer service.
The company, which has signed up Barclays to be its first UK customer, said it wants to help corporate businesses add a "human touch" to their e-commerce sites so that customers can find what they are looking for and complete purchases.
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Many online purchases get abandoned because customers cannot find all the data they want. According to research group Forrester, only 2% of Web site visitors actually buy anything, against 45% of people visiting high-street stores.
Andrew Hart, Ask Jeeves UK's chief executive, said, "By adding 'humanisation' to sites and letting people ask questions in plain English, businesses can improve the way they interact with visitors and turn them into buyers."
Ask Jeeves, which insists its technology is not a search engine, but a "plain English question and answer service for the Web", already has US companies such as Nike, Daimler Chrysler and Microsoft embedding its technology into their sites.
Barclays will be the first UK company to use the technology in its www.B2B.com Web portal.