PeopleSupport.com yesterday joined the long list of vendors trying to cash in on the current boom in customer care services over the web. The Westwood, Los Angeles-based start-up says its outsourced service is designed to make more people purchase items over the internet by letting them ask questions at any stage in the buying process […]
PeopleSupport.com yesterday joined the long list of vendors trying to cash in on the current boom in customer care services over the web. The Westwood, Los Angeles-based start-up says its outsourced service is designed to make more people purchase items over the internet by letting them ask questions at any stage in the buying process and getting answers online, in real time. According to the company’s chairman and president, Lance Rosenzweig, only a very small percentage of visitors to a web site actually follow through and make a purchase. Moreover, shopping cart abandonment rates often exceed 70%. Rosenzweig said the company’s service was different from all its competitors’ because it doesn’t actually license or sell any software. Instead, it offers PeopleSupport.com as an outsourced service. Some 30 agents, what Rosenzweig calls eReps, are on hand at the firm’s offices in Westwood to answer incoming queries from customers. But there services don’t come cheap. It’ll cost clients between $5 and $10 for every on-line session, or query, that PeopleSupport’s eReps have to deal with. Or if the client opts to rent the software for its own in-house team, it will cost around $350 to $500 per agent, per month.
Users click on a Live Help Now icon and are immediately connected to an agent, like talking to a sales assistant over the counter, Rosenzweig said. Depending on who the web site belongs to, the eReps undergo a series of training sessions so that they’ll be able to answer all the users’ questions. The aim is to gently guide the customer through the shopping experience and encourage him or her to actually make the purchase, Rosenzweig said, citing a recent analyst survey that found 83% of its respondents were frustrated when trying to navigate web sites. PeopleSupport doesn’t currently have any data to back up its claims but it says it’s working on compiling a study with one of its customers, the film company Metro Goldwyn Meyer, to show the effects its software and eReps have had on MGM’s sales. Rosenzweig wouldn’t disclose any early results but he did say the data was very compelling.
Customers can opt for a full outsourced service or to keep their operations in house. The latter is designed for companies that already have a customer care center in place and only need the client software on each agents’ PC; but the server software stays on PeopleSupport’s site and the service is still managed by PeopleSupport. The co-sourced option is somewhere in between the two. Companies run their own customer support during the day but switch over to PeopleSupport for after-hours care, seasonal spikes, holidays and so on. As part of its service, PeopleSupport also offers to handle all a company’s email inquiries. Responses can be automated or live and hot prospects can be forwarded directly to the clients’ sales teams.
There’s nothing earth-shattering about PeopleSupport’s technology- it uses eShare Technology Inc’s chat software as the basis of its offering- but since it began selling the service, the company has already attracted the likes of Dean and Deluca, Time Warner, MGM and others as its first customers. With e- commerce transactions predicted to grow from $32m in 1998 to over $400bn in 2002, Rosenzweig said the company’s goal is to dominate the on-line customer care space in key vertical markets including financial services, etailing, travel, entertainment and high- tech/consumer electronics. He says the company is currently adding one new client a week and six new eReps. Next week, it will announce its first round of venture funding, along with a slew of new customers.