Software Puts a Face on Service Reps

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HelloNetwork Inc. this week introduced HelloOperator, a Webcasting application marketed to e-commerce sites as a way to enhance customer service and decrease shopping cart abandonment.

HelloOperator allows customers to hear, see and chat with a customer service representative. The system sells for $750 per package and allows each operator to communicate with five customers simultaneously.

"Studies have shown that 90 percent of people prefer a personal touch when buying," said Amy Ellins, vice president of communications and advertising at HelloNetwork Inc., Las Vegas. "This is exactly what our product does. It's inexpensive, works great and we are really pushing it to e-commerce sites to bring people back to their site, decrease abandonment and increase up-sells."

Ellins said that since the customer can see the operator, it is a perfect opportunity not only to gain trust but also to provide advanced product demonstrations, make upsell suggestions and create a stronger customer relationship.

The company also is marketing the HelloOperator package as a way to increase a company's customer database. As part of the session, customers can send personal e-mails to representatives. Upon exiting the session, there is a short marketing survey which can be bypassed,.

L. Scott Demerau, CEO at Accent Mortgage, believes HelloOperator can help his company remain competitive in the increasingly competitive online mortgage business.

"This alliance with HelloNetwork represents a true turning point in the life of our company," said Demerau. "It ... enhances tremendously management's ability to communicate in personal, real time with our branch operations. Also, by using HelloOperator to streamline and personalize our site, we believe we can make the online mortgage experience a truly pleasurable one for the customer, resulting in more loan applications, but more importantly, a greater volume of loan closings for our customers."

HelloOperator is a Java-based application, meaning it has no plug-ins or downloads for the customer. Also, because it is a Java application, the video compression is done through the operator's PC, not the server's or the customer's PC, shortening the time between question and answer to no more than 10 seconds. Customers also can choose from several bandwidths in which to receive the stream, making it available to anyone with a modem.

According to Ellins, using a downloaded application like Real Player or Window Media Player would significantly increase the time between a question and answer and would increase the cost of such a set-up for companies.

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