Barclays and BT to launch talking website

BARCLAYS and BT are set to add another dimension to the ever expanding world of e-commerce with the advent of an Internet Enabled Call Centre (IECC) - a website you can talk to - writes Clare Francis.

After the successful recent pilot scheme with Barclays Online, BT is expected to sign a series of deals for IECC within the next few weeks. It allows anyone using a website to have questions answered immediately with the click of a mouse - but by a real human being - in three formats.

"Web Chat" uses written dialogue with a customer service agent. "Web Talk" lets a customer talk direct to a call centre operator. Finally, "Web Push" lets an agent "push" the required information to the customer whether it be a picture or text - so someone shopping online for clothes could view an item in a different colour on screen.

More companies look set to join Barclays. Initially, these will be other financial institutions but it will not be long before this ground-breaking initiative, so far available only in the US, is taken up by other sectors.

Ian Seedhouse, development manager at BT Syncordia Solutions, which came up with IECC, said: "There is a need to interact e-mail with a call centre. This is backed up by research, and it will not be long before all companies realise how essential this is - or before the consumer demands it."

Research carried out by Yankelovich Partners in 1998 found that 63 per cent of online users would be more inclined to spend with human interaction - at present 67 per cent of people click out of shopping websites without buying.

Companies may see e-commerce as the way forward and assume that people are going to use websites. In reality, most people still do not trust the web and are reluctant to pass credit-card details over the net.

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