Cybersupport: The Key Reason for Web Presence

This is Part I of a two-part series that will continue in the July issue.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is connected to the Internet ... yet. But the Internet is growing. According to International Data Corp. (IDC), a market research firm in Framingham, Mass., there are 2,100 new Internet users every hour. That’s 35 new potential customers every minute.

The problem is that everyone thinks he has the killer site, and what is overlooked is that more than 80 million Internet users can visit an estimated 15 million websites. That number is growing with 10,000 new company websites being added every day—that’s 417 every hour, seven every minute.

Justifying a Home Page
With this growth, corporate managers can justify the cost of developing and maintaining a home page. They simply show senior management business to consumer (B2C) sales and sales projections. Estimates of $360 billion by 2004 make corporate managers wonder if brick and mortar will give way to click and order.

But B2C sales look like chump change when we see business to business (B2B) sales were $114 billion in 1998 and by 2004 it is estimated B2B will be six times larger than B2C or more than $17.3 trillion (Deloitte Consulting).

During a recent Internet conference, a webmaster commented on how difficult it had been for him to justify his firm’s Web presence because the company was really a supplier to suppliers in the semiconductor industry. The company needed to raise visibility with system design engineers but didn’t really sell to these engineers. He was there to find out how he could make his website more interesting and attractive so people would come to the site for information on the company, its products and services and the benefits to the design engineer as well as learning how to link his site to other locations.

He explained that the idea of putting customer service, customer support and technical documentation on its website had never been brought up. We at Marken Communications explained that by giving customers (and customers of customers) 24-hour access to this information, the company could probably reduce support calls as well as printing, postage and fax bills.

Customer-Oriented Technology
By putting customer-oriented technology, application and manufacturing process information on the site, he could even approach customers about linking his home page to theirs.

When the session presentation was completed, we provided the inquiring webmaster a CD copy of our presentation, which contained some of the pertinent information he would need in moving forward.

  • Sun cut its supply channel costs 30 percent with its buy-thru site.
  • B2B sales can reduce paper-processing costs by more than 20 percent.
  • Cisco saves $400 million annually with online support, reduced its phone support calls by 70 percent and estimates a 20 percent improvement in productivity.
  • IBM handles 90 percent of its operations over the Internet; 80 percent of support is obtained by users from the website with more than 43 million online service requests annually saving $275 million in support costs.
  • Intel does 60 percent of its customer support from the website and reduced customer support calls by 45 percent, improving productivity by 25 percent.
  • Lucas Entertainment’s support volume has increased 40 percent with only one fifth of the support being provided by phone.
  • According to the META Group, Web support costs only $.03 whereas a live person response costs about $5. Web-based customer support can cut call center costs by about 53 percent and the support can be increased by more than 33 percent at less than half the comparable support person cost.

The next day, he said he was up until 3 a.m. preparing Web-centric recommendations and had e-mailed them to the firm’s offices in Germany, Phoenix and Singapore. He already had received two endorsements including from the president and vice president of engineering.

The website had gone from being a marketing tool to a strategic communications tool between customers, suppliers and the company. It was no longer something that more than 160 million people might visit. Instead, it was going to be a global focal point for 1,000 customer locations.

About the Author
G.A. "Andy" Marken is president of Marken Communications, Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif. He may be reached at marken@cerfnet.com.

If you have questions or a topic you would like to see addressed, please e-mail wqpeditor@sgcmail.com; fax 847-390-0408.

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