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  1. Technology
September 17, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

E-commerce start-up NetDialog Inc will bring its first product to market next week; a piece of software it says could radically reduce call center costs by providing real-time support over the internet. The San Mateo, California-based company is counting on the fact that businesses know their customers get frustrated having to wait in line for telephone support, and searches on the internet prove futile as users can never find the answers to their questions. It says its new customer management application, NetDialog Icare System, overcomes this problem by turning the internet from a static one-way information flow into a dynamic two-way communications medium. The software is based on a patent-pending technology which the company calls context-based interaction processing. Put simply, the application, which resides on an NT server, monitors users’ web searches and queries and provides on-screen help boxes into which the user can type requests for information. The answer will either be sent automatically (by the software searching its database and finding an instance where that question has been asked before) or by an on-line agent, who sees the question and types the answer in real-time. Joe Fantuzzi, the company’s president and CEO, says the average customer support call, via a call center, costs, on average, around $20, but using this method could reduce that fee to $2. As well as customer support, Fantuzzi said the technology can provide companies with a detailed description of their customers’ buying trends, product concerns, likes and dislikes, which will enable them to reduce the cost of supporting a product, increase customer loyalty (through faster response times) and provide new sales opportunities. Fantuzzi, who co- founded the company in July 1997, said at present there were many companies, namely the likes of Scopus Inc, Clarify Corp and Remedy Corp, who track details about ‘who’ the web user is, but none track their actual behavior while on line. He stressed that the technology didn’t rely on artificial intelligence to anticipate what the customer is searching for. Rather it provides answers by looking up data from previous users with similar search histories and information requests. It can either be used by companies that want to provide additional sales staff support, or it can be used to assist external customers and consumers when searching a company’s web site. Users don’t need any software as the application is thin-client based and downloads on the fly whenever a customer logs onto the web site. The NetDialog Icare System 1.0, which will be shipped early in the fourth quarter, starts at $50,000 for the server, three fixed administration and ten agent licenses.

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