*Staples.com Attacks No. 1 Service Complaint

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Staples Inc. says the Internet has been helpful in battling its No. 1 service complaint -- rebate redemption.

The company has improved the rebate process by introducing its online Rebate Center at Staples.com as well as through in-store intranets at its more than 1,000 stores in North America.

"We received calls and letters saying, 'My rebate was late, I didn't hear anything yet. What's going on?' " said Jim Sherlock, director of sales promotion at Staples Inc., Framingham, MA. "We think we're making great strides. We measure and monitor our performance on a very regular basis. We're very pleased with the progress we've been making. We've gotten tremendous feedback from our customers."

The company has been working with Parago Inc.'s promotions and customer service Continuous Customer Interaction technology platform.

"The entire process is a little different [from] the standard approach to doing rebates," said Chris Pelzl, general manager for retail accounts at Parago, Inc., Dallas. "The goal is to keep customers in the know."

When a mail-in rebate is received, the consumer receives an e-mail. He then can go to Staples.com's Rebate Center or can access it from within a retail location to see the status of the rebate.

Aside from determining the status of rebates, consumers also can locate offers that may not be on store shelves. Often, standard mail-in rebate pads have not been placed near the product at retail locations.

Through the in-store intranet or online, consumers can search for rebates on items that interest them, print them out, and redeem them online or offline.

Also, through the Parago system, consumers generally receive their rebates within three weeks vs. 10 to 13 weeks, which is more typical of rebates.

"We've cut down on the turnaround time in terms of getting a check to the consumer after the date of purchase," Sherlock said. "It instills a confidence."

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