Talking to customers on the Web

Case study on Las Vegas' Venetian hotel

Please note: ITXC Corp. was acquired by eStara in October, 2001. For more information on the company and its services, please visit http://www.estara.com/. ABOUT THE VENDOR ITXC Corp. established and operates ITXC.net, a global network for voice on the Internet with 530 points of presence in more than 298 cities and 105 countries. ITXC's patented BestValue Routing technology provides such high voice quality over the Internet that tier-one...

carriers use ITXC for worldwide phone-to-phone traffic without indicating that the calls are actually going over the Internet. ITXC believes that by the end of 2001, the most common and significant Web functions -- site browsing and email communication -- will be voice enabled. ABOUT THE CLIENT The Venetian hotel and convention complex includes 3,036 hotel suites (each standard suite measures approximately 700 square feet), the first all-suite hotel on Las Vegas boulevard; 120,000 square feet of gaming floor; 500,000 square feet of retail space at The Grand Canal Shoppes; the luxurious 65,000 square-foot Canyon Ranch SpaClub; 500,000 square feet of meeting space at The Venetian Congress Center; and a direct link to the 1.2 million square foot Sands Expo and Convention Center. ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY ITXC's patented Push to Talk service bridges the Internet and traditional telephone systems. Companies can add Push to Talk to their Web sites, e-mail messages or banner ads in the form of a button or text link by inserting just a few lines of HTML code. Internet users can establish a voice call with a company representative via phone or computer. Push to Talk is available to companies on a pay-per-call basis; companies can implement the service without any capital investment. The Venetian wanted to create a path of least resistance for guests to get information and do business with the company, so they implemented ITXC's Push to Talk. SearchCRM spoke with Chris Stacey, The Venetian's Internet marketing manager, about the project. --------------------------------------------------------- SearchCRM: Why did you decide to implement Push to Talk? Stacey: Not all guests are comfortable booking reservations on the Internet. They may say, wow, this looks like a great place, but feel uncomfortable about entering their credit card information online. So they can just push the button to get their questions answered or book their reservation. SearchCRM: How exactly does the system work? Customers are on your site, they click on the Push to Talk button, and then what happens? Stacey: At that point they have two choices. They can do a telephony phone call, which goes from their computer through their speakers and microphones. Or, if they don't have speakers or a microphone, they can put their phone number in. As soon as they push the button, their phone rings. When they answer it, that connects the other end of the call. When the call comes into the call center, it says "Web phone call" so the call center employees understand that the caller is someone who's looking around on the Web site. If a guest is on the Web site and they ask how many pools we have, for example, the agent can direct that person to the appropriate location on the site. SearchCRM: How many people use the system? Stacey: We're getting over 2,000 calls per month, and our average talk time is about seven minutes per call. The average hold time is less than 20 seconds. SearchCRM: Why did you choose ITXC over other vendors? Stacey: One of the problems with the space is finding out who's real and who's not. A lot of the companies we looked at were just resellers -- they didn't have the infrastructure. But when we looked at ITXC, the mainframes that they had impressed me. Three or four other vendors approached us, but ITXC was the only one that appeared to have an end-to-end solution. SearchCRM: Did you have to do any implementation on your end? Stacey: The only implementation we had to do was to put the buttons on our site. We went with six buttons, which go to six different locations in the hotel. SearchCRM: When do you expect to see ROI? Stacey: We've already seen ROI. Our call center typically converts 22 percent of the phone calls. We get 2,000 calls per month through Push to Talk. If we convert 22 percent of that, that's 440. Multiply that by a $200 sale, which is about our average, and that's $88,000 per month. Times the eight months we've had the system, that's $704,000. SearchCRM: What plans do you have for the future? Stacey: When you go into a search engine and type in "The Venetian," a brief description of us will come up with a link to our Web site. There's a company that actually has the technology to deliver a Push to Talk button at the same time. So not only will the link come up, but a button will come up that says, "Click here to talk to The Venetian right now." SearchCRM: Do you have any advice for companies considering a similar project? Stacey: Make sure you do your due diligence. There are a lot of companies out there that aren't the actual provider of the product. I would recommend that you check their back-end solutions to see what's real. Linda Formichelli's writing appeared this year in Woman's Day, Wired, Writer's Digest, Family Circle, Psychology Today. Contact her at linda-eric@lserv.com, or check out her Web site http://www.twowriters.net

This was first published in August 2001

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