Newsletter

Online Newsletter for Call Center Personnel
Rosanne D'Ausilio, Ph.D. Editor and Publisher
Volume I, Issue 8

Date: March 31, 2000 - A Few E-ssentials about E-commerce, Part II

As promised, here are a number of predictions regarding the future of the Web. International Data Corporation predicts that by 2003, the amount of commerce conducted from web sites will top $1 trillion, and the number of people who purchase products from web sites will jump to more than 183 million in 2003, a six-fold increase from the 1998 figure of from 31 million. The more conservative Dataquest (research firm) predicted overall business-to-consumer e-commerce in the US would grow from $20.5 billion in 1999 to $147 billion in 2003. Jupiter Communications predicts consumers will spend $14.9 billion online in 1999 and that figure will soar to $78 billion by 2003, according to. A study by Cisco Systems attributed $101 billion of revenues to e-commerce in 1998. Dr. James Canton, Executive Director of the Institute for Global Futures and author of TechnoFutures predicts $2.3 trillion by 2003, mostly business to business. (keynote address Future Smart: How Leading Edge Technology Will Revolutionize the 21st Century, Call Center 2000 Conference, Dallas, January 24-27).

Given these estimates, it is no wonder that on-line service is such a priority among companies that sell products or services from their websites According to Datamonitor's research study late November, 1999, of the estimated 69,500 call centers in the US, only 8% were web enabled. However, they predict by 2003, 40% of them will be on line.

No matter how we cut it, e-commerce is huge and growing at an extraordinary rate. However, up to this point and for the foreseeable future, that growth is uncomfortable. The current state of Web technology has only made business faster when it's simple. It hasn't done anything to speed up problem solving. And it still presents formidable challenges to the prospective buyer. Very few websites are glitch-free, and all a buyer needs to turn him or her off is a service problem that pops up before he's even finished ordering. Overall, online customer service leaves much to be desired. Most selling websites are cumbersome, full of contradictions, dead ends, and misinformation. Moreover, they re missing the human component that is so critical. This is partly because companies, having invested so much in web technology to save money, are reluctant to turn around and spend it on CSR support. They are already paying a price for that decision, and the price tag will get heftier in the future.

Even after website design has evolved past its current primitive stage, back-and-forth live communication will still be required. Virtual environments do not create virtual customers. Twenty-five years from now customers will still be human beings, and still be driven by human desires and needs. Except for the simplest transactions, customers will want to know they can reach a live person who can sort out the snafus, just as they enjoy the 'zero out' option available on IVRs, allowing callers to move from the automated menu to a live operator for assistance.

Amazon.com has learned this. They employ hundreds of traditional CSRs using phone lines to help customers with questions that cannot be dealt with online.

This notion is underscored by Purdue University which indicates that "most web surfers will not actually move from information 'grazing'' to purchasing a product without being able to talk to a human being." (Targeting the Best Web Sites, Jon Anton, Call Center Magazine, December, 1999, p. 25). We'll look at the e-challenge to CSR's next month.

Quote of the month:

To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart. - Eleanor Roosevelt

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