ABOUT THE VENDOR
Incorporated in 1998, Hipbone is a provider of real-time Web interaction services for online sales and support. Hipbone enables contact center personnel, including customer service and telesales representatives, to link with a customer's browser to jointly co-navigate the Web. Using Hipbone's hosted service, e-businesses and their customers can simultaneously view pages, jointly complete on-line forms and applications, or co-navigate complex purchase transactions.
ABOUT THE CUSTOMER
NCR Corporation provides Relationship Technology solutions for the retail, financial, telecommunications, airline, and insurance markets. NCR's Relationship Technology solutions include data warehousing, ATMs, and point-of-sale systems.
ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
Unlike other web collaboration or co-browsing solutions that are based on URL-pushing, Hipbone's Java-based proxy-server architecture provides Web navigation without requiring customers to make changes to their Web sites. Hipbone provides support for advanced Web technologies such as dynamic page content (http Post command), framesets, cookies (guaranteed single submits of forms), end-to-end SSL encryption, and co-navigation through portions of a site requiring user authentication.
SearchCRM spoke with Kurt Winterhalter, director of NCR Direct (which sells the consumables that go with NCR equipment), about the project.
SearchCRM: Why did you decide to use a co-browsing system as part of your CRM solution?
Winterhalter: NCR's approach to customer service is probably a lot different from, say, AOL or Yahoo or someone else. These companies do everything they can to not have a customer actually get in contact with any of their people. We have customer service people who are live people, and the next step would be to have them co-navigate on the Internet. Our customers buy a lot from us, and it's pretty high-margin stuff compared to retail. If anyone needs help -- say it's their first time on the Web site -- we want to make sure that we can co-navigate to get them registered and signed up.
SearchCRM: How did you choose Hipbone?
Winterhalter: Hipbone happened to call one of my associates. It was an ASP model, hence easy to implement, plus it also fit with our customer service philosophy of hands-on help. It was a no-brainer.
SearchCRM: What was the most challenging aspect of the implementation?
Winterhalter: There wasn't anything that challenging. Just one thing that one wouldn't think of -- integration with our current phone system, because it does have a feature where it dials up a customer service rep and dials back the customer. It wasn't difficult, but there were dependencies that had more to do with our phone system than with the Hipbone system.
SearchCRM: How did training go?
Winterhalter: Hipbone came out here and trained. They did a little bit of classroom work and some sessions where they trained two people at a time.
SearchCRM: Did you experience any internal resistance?
Winterhalter: Not overt resistance, because everyone was quite impressed with the solution. Our people are extremely good on the phone, and there are times when they can get to the solution just by talking someone through. So it was a matter of saying, "If you use the Hipbone system, there are some times when you're going to see a time savings." They were encouraged to go ahead and use the system because then they would get better at Hipbone and pick up speed. It's definitely better than using the telephone alone when you have a customer who really needs to be walked through.
SearchCRM: Can you give me an example of how the system works?
Winterhalter: We want our customers to transition to using our Web site and to feel good about it. I have people report to me who are outbound telemarketers. So they'll call a bank and say, "How are you doing on your inking supplies? We have a special going on." Then they can say, "Have you had a chance to use our Web site yet?" If the customer says no, the rep offers to walk the customer through registering for the site. By the end, he'll have an order placed, will be registered, and will know how to use the Web site.
That's the proactive use. On the reactive side, it's a straightforward case of someone having trouble finding what they need or getting through the transaction on the Web site. The service person and the customer are both looking at the same page. We might tell the customer to type in a stock number, and we can see them typing it in and say, "Oh, I see you've selected such-and-such product." Think of how that impresses people.
SearchCRM: What's your next step going to be?
Winterhalter: We're going to be using Hipbone for everything from training to service. Now that we've had good proof of concept in the small business channel, we're going to be applying it to the larger customers.
Linda Formichelli's writing has appeared this year in Woman's Day, Wired, Writer's Digest, Family Circle and Psychology Today. Contact her at email@example.com
This was first published in July 2001