I probably shouldnt admit this, but Im ambivalent about print. Sure, magazines are great for delivering a regular flow of information under a consistent brand. But I feel guilty about murdering trees.
So when, during the month of October, my household received 66 pounds of mail-order catalogs, I decided enough was enough. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I salved my own, tree-murdering conscience and burned up the better part of a day calling 800-numbers and asking baffled call center agents to remove my name from mailing lists. The Jainschiggs are now, officially, a pull-model paradigm/web only family. Want to reach us? Try advertising in a magazine.
This miserable task accomplished, I satdown at one of our several computers and prepared to embark on my first 100% online holiday shopping spree. And, almost immediately, I hit a snag. I needed further info about a product, the 800-number was right there in front of me, but I was already using the phone for dialup Net access.
Problem? Nope I just pulled out my cell phone and made the call. Worked great. And it was effectively free unlike this time last year, I now pay $59.95/month for 600 deluxe, call-anywhere
minutes, so why not use them? It wasnt until Id successfully negotiated three or four such web/phone transactions that the light dawned: Ubiquitous, flat-rate wireless telephony solves the second line problem for consumer-market e-commerce. It does so in a natural, friction-free, simple way, that consumers are already buying into. No fooling around with the dialup connection (à la two-years-ago-eFusion). No PC-based VoIP. No text chat. No paradigm shifts at all.
refines my perception of how dot.com companies should implement call centers in the current timeframe. Stop worrying about the second line problem. Treat PC-to-call-center VoIP as a long term goal. Wireless telephony offers a friction-free way to keep customers from abandoning their virtual shopping carts: The tech problems, unanticipated questions, lingering paranoia about credit-card numbers, etc. Just install a solid CT-enabled multimedia ACD (two of my current favorites are Rockwells
TransCend and Telephony@Works eponymous system) with e-mail routing and co-browsing, and youre home-free.
Meanwhile, here are two good ways to spend your money: 1) Lobby the FCC and wireless providers to implement true called party pays service (eliminating even the tiny friction-factor of obliging wireless callers to consume paid-for minutes when calling free phone numbers); 2) Start making your e-commerce site shoppable by cell phone.
Why? Because cell phones dont take
90 seconds to boot up. Theyre mobile (just like the magazines that dot.coms advertise in, in order to push traffic to the site). Theyre available on impulse. So they can turn all those latent minutes (car minutes, couch minutes, during-the-TV-commercial minutes) into gold-plated shopping minutes.
Several technologies are available for making this transition. For our money, the best all-round approach looks like WAP the wireless application protocol being pushed by Nokia,
Ericsson, and other cellular stakeholders. WAP comprehends facilities to manage micro-screen display, enable smartkeys, manage speech recognition (and other back-channel signaling methods), and otherwise engage the cell phone as if it were a tiny little PC. It also accomodates a speech-path alongside the data-interchange channel. So WAP sites can be conveniently human enabled.
Be prepared to do some experimenting; just like youve done with the web. The rule-book hasnt been
written for wireless voice/data shopping, yet; and there are discoveries to be made, here.