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Customer service...customer service...customer service
Posted by netwebly Fall 1999

The smarmy name notwithstanding, this is the kind of idea the Net was made to exploit. This New York based web site is another good example of the dynamics that can make E-Commerce more efficent than traditional business models. Web sites can outsource customer service reps to handle phone orders and live online chat with clients.

Many online transactions fail between the time a customer clicks the shopping cart icon and the time they surf through to the checkout. It's important for a customer to be able to reach someone quickly when they have a problem.

LivePerson could provide a plausible answer. On paper the numbers look good. Cut back on overhead, cut back on salary, no need to even worry about hiring part-timers. But remember, you're dealing with the web, not with a piece of paper.

There are disadvantages to outsourcing that may outweigh the money an e-commerce site saves by going to an outsider to provide customer service.

The issue of credibility is probably the most serious. A poorly trained staff, or one that sounds like it doesn't know a product, can damage an image it took millions of dollars to promote - regardless of how sassy your web site is.

Consumers tend to make assesments about a company based on their direct contacts with the company's employees. It doesn't matter if your web site produces a hundred million a year in revenue or only a couple of thousand, your customers will judge you as much by the people staffing the phone lines as they will by the other services you provide. Provide inadequate customer service and most will click away. It's unlikely they'll be back.

Almost nothing (other than a web site that doesn't work) reflects more badly on an e-commerce company than customer service that fails to meet user expectations. Poor customer service is common in places where customers have no choice - they're stuck - they're helpless - they have to deal with the fool behind the counter or walk away empty handed.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that it doesn't work that way in cyberspace. Almost every company is dealing with at five competitors, in most cases, the number is more like a couple of hundred.

All it takes is a couple of clicks and an annoyed customer is out of your site and at the dot com across the street. The dot com across the street sells the same goods as you at pretty much the same prices. If your by now disgruntled ex-customer gets to the checkout at that other dot com without any problem (and they probably will - Murphy's law of customer service in action) they'll spend their dollars without hesitation.

In effect, your clever trick on paper is really great advertising for the competition.

Very clever.

Software we'd like to see: Auto-Nuke
Posted by netwebly Fall 1999

An application like this would probably raise serious legal issues, but there's no doubt that if released, this software would be the first real killer app of 2001.

People have been talking about what to do about spam for years. The reality is this: the people who send spam don't care about negative publicity or netiquette. If they did, they would never send mass mailings.

We're told the way to get them to stop is by sending polite e-mail, either to the spammers themselves or to the SysAdmin responsible for administering the network the spam originates from. Most of us have gone to the trouble of pursuing one of these solutions at least once. Sometimes the problem is solved.

Sometimes it isn't.

It's clearly unfair to ask innocent innocent net users to go to such trouble time and time again, simply to stop behavior that should never be permitted in the first place.

Legally, there's no way Government, at least in the United States, can restrict mass mailings in the physical world - there are too many constitutional issues at stake.

Law in cyberspace, however, is another matter entirely. The fact is that technology has put power in the hands of an element that has no qualms about using it in ways that are unethical and annoying. Given the ease with which a single direct marketer can flood cyberspace with hundreds of thousands of pieces of worthless e-mail - it's possible that cyberspace needs a new set of legal rules that take into a account the new realities, which quite frankly, would probably have tied the framers of our constitution up in fits.

It's easy to imagine an application that would stop direct marketing on the net dead in it's tracks.We picture a simple application that bundles with your home or office e-mail client.

Installed on your system, auto-nuke offers the best protection from unsolicited and unwanted mail there is.

Let's say a direct marketer sends you an e-mail offering "ONE THOUSAND GUARANTEED WAYS TO MAKE MONEY USING THE NUTRATRITIONSYSTEM"

You don't want a guarantee.

You don't want the NUTRATRITION SYSTEM.

You probably already have a way to make money - your job.

What you want is a way to read your email without being bombarded by stupidity on a daily basis.

Right click on the Auto-Nuke Icon and add the offender's email address to the program's list of banned senders.

An e-mail is automatically sent to the offender's return address, which more often than not will turn out to be a fake.

(You can customize the contents of the message yourself using a bundled thesaurus of appropriate anti-spam terminology.)

A copy of the message, along with a copy of the offending email is also sent to the Auto-Nuke registry as evidence in the event of a legal dispute.

The next time you receive a message from the offender an automatic e-mail is generated by the auto-nuke software.

The message reads as follows. "You have been warned. Unsolicited email is not permitted in this domain. This system is protected by the Auto-nuke system. Any further correspondence to this address will initiate automatic countermeasures."

Three strikes and you're out.

A third message from the sender will trigger the appropriate countermeasure. Auto-nuke filters the incoming message, instantly duplicates it, and bounces three to twenty thousand copies of the stupid little thing back in the direction from which it came - the severity of the nuke depending on the option you select in the program's settings, of course.


The offender's server is bombed back to the TRS-80 Age in a matter of seconds.

Of course, there a few wrinkles to work out before software like this would be practical. For one thing, something would have to be done about bounce backs - it would be very easy for the program to backfire, you could easily wind up nuking yourself.

And with the way technology works, it probably wouldn't be long before direct marketers came up with a defense system, auto-shields that detect approaching nukes and disable the server before auto-nuke messages arrive, causing the payload to bounce harmlessly back into cyberspace.

The end result would probably be chaos.

In the long run it might just be easier for everybody if government stepped in and did something about unsolicited e-mail.

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