With the bursting of the dotcom share bubble, e-commerce is getting real. Gone is the talk of life in a totally electronic world. Instead, the industry needs to think clicks and mortar - how to combine online trading with traditional business wisdom.
Today, e-business initiatives need to focus on customer service. To date, many companies trading electronically have relied on delivering goods and services cheaper than traditional channels to market would allow. But price advantage alone will no longer be enough.
Recent research reveals some startling facts: 66% of online customers abandon items they place in their Web shopping baskets because Web shopping processes are too difficult, nearly 35% would buy more if they could interact in real-time with a salesperson, and 89% of people who shop on the Web actually buy over the phone.
Like retail shoppers, online shoppers often need the reassurance of speaking to a person before buying.
Leading e-tailers such as Amazon.com and eBookers.com are setting up service centres for customer contacts by e-mail and phone. Amazon says people call to confirm whether everything is ready to go before they place an order, to check the product is going to arrive and to make suggestions on what they like or don't like about the service. Amazon now has 600 agents in seven contact centres around the world - and nearly half the contacts it receives are by phone.
The reality today, is that companies must pay as much attention to call centre-enabling their Web sites, as to Web-enabling their call centres.
Anne Marie Forsyth, executive director, Call Centre Association. Call Centre Expo 2000 will take place 19-20 September at the NEC, Birmingham.