Teleweb Software Enhances Interaction With Customers

The interchange of information between customers and call center representatives is being enhanced with software from WebLine Communications that allows both parties to interact over the World Wide Web during a phone conversation and could change the whole dynamic of the telesales call.

The Burlington, MA, company has offered its WebLine software since last summer, pinpointing high-tech and financial services firms as the primary beneficiaries of WebLine’s teleweb (telephone/Web) seminar capabilities for sales, training and other communication functions.

In the last three months, WebLine has signed up Putnam Investments, Boston, and Oracle Corp., Redwood Shores, CA, as clients.

“Oracle recognizes the distinct business advantages offered by a teleweb solution,” said WebLine president and CEO Dan Keshian. “As the world’s leading supplier of software for information management, Oracle is using WebLine to reduce sales cycles, lower operating expenses and provide faster, more efficient service to its customers.”

Gary Damiano, senior director of telemarketing for Oracle’s Direct Marketing Division (DMD), said WebLine will enable his company to open up the type of selling it can do from a call center.

“The technology represents this whole trend toward convergence in this industry where you see how the Web will start interacting with the call center, which in turn will start interacting with the video and audio side of it,” Damiano said.

Inbound callers need only a JAVA-enabled Web browser to participate in a teleweb session. Once connected, a call center rep can share Web content, demonstrate software, navigate callers around the Web and transfer downloadable files all while maintaining a phone conversation. Time is saved on sales calls by eliminating the need for follow-up calls and faxes.

WebLine can be configured for a single line or for a two-line system with separate voice and data connections. The single-line configuration allows consumers with the proper multimedia hardware on their PC to call a technical support representative to solve an Internet-related problem while remaining online. The two-line configuration is standard for business-to-business communications.

Matt Keenan of Putnam Investments, which plans to use WebLine to connect mutual fund brokers with Putnam service representatives, said the software streamlines and improves customer service.

“If you get deep into a Web site, it would be hard to call up a customer rep and get that same URL and same page,” Keenan said. “With this, the rep and the broker are on the same page immediately. They can also push images back and forth, which is helpful for changes.”

Putnam is currently beta testing WebLine with a few brokers. It should be available to all brokers within a year.

Oracle’s plans for WebLine are more ambitious. The world’s second-leading software company wants to conduct PowerPoint seminars online. After testing solutions from Contigo, San Diego, CA, and Placeware, Mountain View, CA, Damiano chose WebLine because of its diversity.

“It actually opened our eyes to a number of different things we could use that technology to accomplish, from a telesales and telemarketing perspective,” he said.

Oracle will first use WebLine to conduct product seminars and qualify sales prospects interested in their Web Developer Suite and Oracle8 software lines. Oracle also plans to implement Internet sales meetings, one-on-one sales calls and internal product training.

Online technical support can be improved through a “call-me button” on Web pages that connects a user needing assistance with an Oracle call center representative.

The high-end products Oracle sells to corporations typically require on-site demonstration and testing prior to purchase. Damiano said WebLine could help close sales of $100,000 or more over the phone.

“As time goes on this [technology] will be a prerequisite for a telesales organization, especially one selling a high-end product,” Damiano said.

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