Customer Service: Instant Information Is Not Enough

Future electronic support will blend digital and human help

Since electronic commerce became all the rage two years ago, most of the buzz has been about selling products online. But for long-distance phone carrier MCI Communications Corp., the focus was elsewhere: on delivering customer service over the Internet. Now, MCI customers with PCs can monitor their accounts and pay their bills without so much as licking a stamp. By early fall, they'll be able to click an icon to get a service representative to talk with as they continue surfing the Web--assuming they're a good customer, that is. Since MCI's sophisticated system identifies the caller in seconds, big spenders get help within three rings, while penny-pinching carrier-swappers must wait until after priority customers get the first-class treatment.

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