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The ROI of online customer service

For an e-tailer, a problem with a shopping cart can be a serious loss of business. That's one reason Delray Beach, Fla.-based Levenger, a catalog company and retailer of high-end library and reading merchandise, deployed a Web application management solution as part of a recent re-launch of its storefront.

''With our old site, we had significant problems identifying and communicating with customers to fix problems,'' explained Lynnette Montgomery, Internet manager. Only a small percentage of online customers will e-mail the company to report a problem, and then place a phone order. Most will either abandon a transaction when a problem occurs or will turn to the phone without mentioning the problem, she said. Either way, the IT staff doesn't know where the problem occurred, what browser the customer was using, and what products they were trying to buy. Since online sales represent an ever-increasing percentage of the business, it's a problem Levenger needed to solve.

TeaLeaf Technology cold-called her at just the right time, said Levenger's Montgomery. TeaLeaf's IntegriTea solution was built to capture and re-enact end-user Web application sessions, detect failures in real time, alert operations staff and correlate the problems to the end user. Levenger tested IntegriTea on its old site and then, after determining there was nothing comparable on the market in terms of robustness, implemented IntegriTea on its new Web site, launched in July. Levenger also used the solution in pre-deployment testing. IntegriTea comprises server, portal and viewer components running on Microsoft platforms.

For Levenger, with 250 employees, one store in Delray Beach and 15,000 orders a month to process, IntegriTea was ''a big investment,'' said Montgomery, ''but putting together the ROI was simple.'' Now, she said, a customer service rep can use IntegriTea to determine a user's problem -- whether something is truly not working or it's a navigation or user error -- and alert a programmer if necessary. Because IntegriTea displays the code and the error, problems that once took several hours to fix are now addressed in minutes, she added.

IntegriTea also enables Levenger's staff to look up a live session and help the customer while they're on the phone. All that translates to better customer service and, in some cases, increased revenue. Montgomery recounts the following story: An online customer placed a $250 order in his shopping cart, but was unable to complete the transaction. Upon review of user sessions, Montgomery e-mailed the customer, noting what he had in his cart and offering to complete the transaction for him. In the meantime, he had called customer service, but only placed a $100 order.

''He was so ecstatic that someone had contacted him that he told me to cancel the phone order and place his $250 order,'' said Montgomery. That's ROI, for sure.

About the Author

Colleen Frye is a freelance writer based in Bridgewater, Mass.

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