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GlobalPhone Press Coverage


WebCallback Gives the Internet a Human Touch  
By Chaim Yudkowsky
March 5, 1999 print edition
  

Convenience and speed are everything when you are trying to develop a strategy of interacting with customers, and the Internet showed lots of both last holiday season. But is it possible to provide a human touch to online marketing and sales without mechanizing or invading personal privacy?

One solution, launched in October 1998, integrates the Internet presence with instant telephone connectivity and works well. A provider of this type of service is GlobalPhone, a Falls Church, Va., phone carrier that specializes in corporate international callback.

Its service is called Webcallback (http://www.webcallback.com).

How it works

You create your Web site as you normally would with commerce, product information and corporate information. Next, you place an icon for a telephone connection on your Web site's pages. The icon should be placed prominently in a logical place that users may need to interact with a human customer service representative. Now, your Web site is ready for use with a human touch.

Your customer clicks on the icon and is prompted to enter a phone number. The icon instantly triggers two phone calls. The first calls a preregistered number attached to the icon (your assigned number for this page) and informs you that a Webcall is forthcoming. Then it calls your customer's number and conferences both together. Now, you are both talking.

Because both halves of the phone call are U.S.-originated, the cost factor is very competitive even for international connections.

The service uses traditional phone connectivity, because Internet-based telephony is not universally reliable, and the quality of Internet provider telephony audio is not always good.

Each icon can have one or more call numbers and will search for an answer from among a list of numbers.

Security is in place to ensure that calls are initiated only by authorized sites and made only to preprogrammed numbers.

Finally, customer restrictions can be placed on the icon so international or specific calls are not connected.

The Webcallback service is not a programming nightmare to add to an existing Web site. GlobalPhone hosts all the code and routes the call through its network.

Why use it

Although the above example is clearly customer- and Internet-centric, the following is a list of why introducing such a service to your site makes sense:

Everyone still likes to interact with people. Why make it difficult and hide behind the site? Many Web sites hide contact information on their sites.

Internet is international; toll-free 800 numbers are not. This service makes possible Internet-initiated international-to-U.S. and international-to-international calls at competitive per-minute rates.

Not everyone is comfortable with online commerce. The urge to do business with you may diminish if the user is forced to use traditional technologies. Some of Internet buying is true impulse buying. This service allows for the conclusion of the order to take place immediately in a phone conversation that confirms credit card information.

Even if online commerce is not their goal, customers often have questions before and after they buy. Use Webcallback to stop losing the customer who does not have the patience to travel through voice mail or to wait for an e-mail response. Webcallback is mostly about customer service.

Updated regularly, these intelligent icons are better than a phone directory. Directory users will like the convenience of instantly talking to the person that they sought. This is especially effective on an intranet.

The Internet has created a community of chat rooms and newsgroups. A service like this can be used to create true live chat with its conference-calling ability.

What rules to follow

To experience Webcallback technology, some rules do apply.

First, it is not likely to increase site traffic by itself, but is likely to increase the meaningfulness of its use.

Second, you must be prepared to answer the phone. This means having the staff or outsourcing customer service so that it is traffic appropriate and scheduled to complement the traffic's timing.