Web-Enabled Call Centers—A Progress Report
by Howard Bernett, Denise Masi, and Martin Fischer, Mitretek Systems

Published July 2002




While ecommerce and online customer service continue to grow, many customers remain reluctant to complete a Web purchase without first talking to a live agent. Surveys indicate that between 25 and 75 percent of online shoppers abandon their shopping carts before completing a purchase, primarily because the website lacks real-time customer service to answer questions or resolve problems.


Thus, it's not surprising that a Purdue University survey of call center managers showed that the most significant initiative started in 2000 was website integration with their call center. The idea is to take advantage of agent pools who can assist Web customers, by installing a "Customer Service" button on a Web page that visitors can press to request assistance. Some studies have shown that corporations will spend more to upgrade their online customer-service capabilities than on any other information-technology effort in the next two years, with the bulk of that investment going into front-end call-center systems, back-end Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications and website enhancements.


The implementation of Web-enabled call centers is leaving the early-adopter stage and moving toward the mainstream. Web customers are beginning to expect that on-line customer service will be only a click away, so the companies that fulfill this expectation will take business away from those that do not.


We expect, however, that established call centers will continue to operate their traditional TDM-based equipment for many years to come. These call centers will implement Web-enabled and VOIP capability by upgrading their systems so that TDM and IP technologies co-exist. Those responsible for new call center installations will have a choice—either installing traditional systems or the new all-IP products. Over the next several years, more call center managers will move toward the latter.


About the authors:

Howard Bernett is a senior manager at Mitretek Systems; Denise Masi is a principal at Mitretek Systems; and Martin Fischer is a senior fellow at Mitretek Systems



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