Diamond.com Looks to Chat Technology

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Diamond.com partnered with !hey inc. late last month to implement a chat technology that it hopes will proactively deliver online sales.

Diamond.com, an e-tailer of diamonds, jewelry and brand-name watches, will use !hey's icontact technology to monitor consumer activity on the site. At the point of sale or abandonment, Diamond.com customer service representatives will have the ability to trigger a pop-up window and initiate communication with the potential customer.

"We try to re-create the brick-and-mortar experience on the click-and-mortar site," said Bill Christie, chief operating officer at !hey, North Andover, MA.

The icontact technology also allows Diamond.com to set filters in areas of the site that may be prone to abandonment, Christie said. The companies worked together to analyze Diamond.com's Web traffic to design engagement strategies, he said.

Diamond.com chief strategic officer Nicholas Tipiol said he hopes the technology will enhance the company's customer service operations and increase sales.

The company, which targets college-educated people with annual household incomes of about $75,000, pushes for its customers to complete transactions through its 1-888-Diamond number, Tipiol said. Diamond.com customers, he said, favor buying via telephone because they can communicate with a customer service representative.

"We encourage that because we want people to educate themselves and feel comfortable about their purchases," Tipiol said.

Telephone transactions also allow Diamond.com to upsell its products, Tipiol said.

However, Tipiol believes most online consumers use their only phone line to connect to the Internet, eliminating the opportunity for a company such as Diamond.com to communicate with a consumer before a transaction. The icontact technology, he hopes, will bridge the Web offerings and the customer service representation because it enables both parties to open communication.

"A surfer can ask for a live chat, and through their systems, we can track the person and initiate a sale on a proactive basis," he said.

Tipiol said he expects icontact to help Diamond.com meet its goals, but he also expressed privacy concerns.

"We like the fact that we can do it, but we don't want to intrude [on] the privacy of the Internet user," Tipiol said. "It's a double-edged sword."

Diamond.com plans to test the technology during the first few months with some of its senior customer service representatives, Tipiol said, initiating chat communication when a user is on a page for a long time. After analyzing customer response during that period, he said, the company intends to train its entire staff on when to engage a customer.

Meanwhile, Christie said the technology should not raise privacy alerts. While customers initially complained about user privacy concerns, he said, !hey's clients now believe "people are more satisfied with the help that they get than the invasion that they get."

Christie said the conversion rates of !hey's clients were not available.

Diamond.com expects to introduce the tool through pop-up windows on its home page and a biweekly e-mail newsletter, Tipiol said. The company also is looking into some of !hey's other customer service products, such as a call center system, to work in coordination with the chat technology and further improve its customer service operations, he said.

"We believe in customer service, because I think that's the key to success on the Internet," he said. "To any business, actually."
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