Call Centre Blues

Call them holdouts, call them Luddites, say they “just don’t get it” — some Web surfers still want to talk to a real live customer service representative (CSR) before they cough up their Visa numbers.

That means the dot-coms still need real-world call centres. And they need to connect their call centres to their Web sites as seamlessly as possible. So here come the vendors.

For instance, eBridge, Lucent Technologies and NetSpeak offer a voice-over-IP connection so the CSR can pick up and talk over the same wire the customer is using for his or her Web connection. Another approach is Teloquent Communications’ Web Call Center. Teloquent puts a button on the Web site that, when clicked, automatically initiates a callback from a rep, using not IP but the plain old telephone system. Unfortunately, the surfer has to log off to take the call. When consumers can’t connect smoothly with the CSR, they often give up. No sale.

“It’s a very hot issue among Internet-only companies right now,” says Robert Metz, president of New York City-based “Abandoned shopping carts are something we have to get past.” is trying a couple of things to help customers get in touch. A centerpiece of Metz’s strategy is a product from Stamford, Conn.-based RealCall that puts two callback buttons on the site: one labelled “call me now” and the other, “call me in 10 minutes.” RealCall collects information about the site visit and passes it to the CSR before the consumer gets the call.

Metz says customers seem to like the callback option; he plans to expand’s use of RealCall by putting the “Call Me” buttons everywhere on the site, so help is always just a click away.