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FedEx Pushes Online Service in France via CD-ROM

PARIS – Federal Express distributed 60,000 CD-ROMs across France this past summer touting the company's Internet capability.

Couriers and the sales force handed out envelopes containing the CD-ROM with every delivery or pickup of packages. In addition to the CD the envelope contained a letter from a senior FedEx customer service manager explaining the benefits of going online.

“The CD-ROM gave our customers an offline demonstration of the Federal Express Website including our tracking feature so people could see how easy it is to do business with us,” spokesman John Christophe Damon said.

Recipients were also given a free membership with CompuServe, “so they could start using our Website right away. We chose CompuServe in order to demonstrate how easily the link to FedEx could be made. We're both global companies and are both experts in information exchange.”

In order to activate the free CompuServe membership prospects had to call the company, which, in turn, passed the name on to Federal Express “so that we would know exactly what has happened.”

The CD-ROM also featured a game allowing customers who were not on CompuServe to participate. They got a prize if they e-mailed answers to two questions about Federal Express service, giving it access to those names as well.

The Website provides a broad array of information services. “If you want to know the delivery times from France to Germany you go to the shipping tool, click on transition time and you know that it takes one day.”

France does not have the same Internet penetration as the US and some of the northern European countries, Damon conceded, but said that French use of the Web was growing. “We're catching up,” he said.

The company decided not to use Minitel, the fairly simple computer network France installed in the eighties, initially as an online phone book, and later as a more expanded information services tool.

“You need a special connection to the Minitel,” Damon explained, “and it is not as user friendly as the Internet which is connected directly to our Website. Also in terms of color and consumer appeal the Web is better for us.”

Federal Express returned to Europe in 1996 after giving up the market in 1992. Initially, it attempted to re-establish itself as an intra-European courier service with an innovative direct mail campaign in 1997.

But although company officials say the mailings were successful they clearly did not work well enough so that FedEx decided on repositioning itself as an international shipper, even though it does handle intra-European deliveries.

“We had two objectives going on line,” Damon said. “First, obviously to reposition FedEx as an international shipper, and second to offer customers the choice of using new technology or sticking with our phone service.

“We have call centers in every country in Europe that offer advice and customer support. You can use the phone to contact the centers or e-mail. They handle both.

“Our goal is to make our customer's life easier. This can be done online but we are also present when the customer needs us, which is where call centers come in.

“If you want to talk to somebody you can, even if you only ship one document you can get a customer service agent on the phone. We offer technological solutions but not in order to cut our staff.”

The repositioning campaign is also supported by a direct mail drive. “We regularly mail a brochure to our installed base in France that is designed to position us as an international shipper,” Damon said.

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