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

“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

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

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.

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