Shopping Online And Having Your Salesclerk, Too

ONE OF THE GREAT DISADVANTAGES of shopping on the World Wide Web is that there aren't sales clerks around to answer those on-the-spot questions. Now, two software companies have setups that will bring clerks running to your aid.

WebLine Communications Corp., in Burlington, Mass., is introducing a Java-based program on Aug. 25 that's geared toward enhancing business-to-business Web commerce. Called WebLine, it enables customers visiting a company's virtual storefront to electronically alert a sales representative when they need help. By entering a phone number, customers can expect a phone call from a company sales rep while they continue browsing the Web site. Once a sales rep is connected electronically to the buyer, additional information--a comparison of its products and a competitor's, for instance--can be sent over the Web. The company will license the software, which will work through any corporate firewall, for $25,000.

eFusion Inc.,in Beaverton, Ore.,hasa different solution. It sells a$150,000-plus program called eBridge Interactive Web Responsesystem, which connects a company's Web server to its telephone call center. When customers with a multimedia PC are ready to buy from a Web site, they merely click on a button and get placed in the same holding queue as customers calling the company's toll-free phone line. The microphone and speakers on the customer's PC act as a speakerphone, so asking questions or completing the order simply means talking into the PC. eFusion says six top telecommunications companies are testing eBridge.

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