RealTime IT News

Battling the Befuddlement Factor

Lucent Technologies is delivering up some new software called Contact Assist that makes it possible for e-commerce Web sites to automatically identify customers who are encountering difficulties and offer them immediate help.

The assistance comes in the form of customized help screens, or live agent contact via telephone callback, voice over IP, fax, online text chat or escorted browsing.

"Contact Assist addresses one of the most critical challenges facing e-commerce companies today, closing the sale," said Curtis Holmes, vice president for intelligent network and messaging systems at Lucent.

"This new application will enable Web site operators to offer help to their customers before they become frustrated and log off without making a purchase."

According to figures from research firm Datamonitor, the shopping cart abandonment rate is about four out of five, so it's clear that anything that can be done to salvage a customer before he or she bails out will be an advantage to an online merchant.

Contact Assist uses a proprietary "decision engine" developed by researchers at Lucent's Bell Labs, to quickly identify customers who are having difficulties.

"The decision engine automatically determines whether to offer assistance based on rules established in advance by business managers," said Narain Gehani, director of database systems research at Bell Labs. "This offers a tremendous competitive advantage by eliminating the need for continuous human monitoring"

Once an offer of assistance is made (via a pop-up window), the customer can then decide whether to reject or accept it, and choose from the help options offered.

Lucent said Contact Assist is a network-based application that can be deployed by service providers or directly by retail Web sites. It is one component of Lucent's Network Contact Center (NCC), a suite of applications that will enable carriers to provide Web enterprises with the same customer service capabilities previously available only in premises-based systems. NCC will enable enterprise call/contact centers to handle both voice and Web-based contacts, according to customer preference,

Contact Assist will be generally available in the fourth quarter of 2000.