Integrate Your Call Center With The Internet

Roughly 30% of's daily 2,000 holiday online orders require call center interaction. The right client/server software routes customer phone calls and e-mails using a single server.

Mother's Day. It's one of the biggest holidays of the year. Do you honor your mother on this special day? What about the birthdays or anniversaries of your friends and loved ones? Maybe you remember these special days, but you're short on time or gift ideas or both. Don't panic. Help is a few keystrokes away. Log on to the Internet and visit is no brick-and-mortar online wannabe. This company's only business is to function as a full-service, Web-based florist for its customers. Customers can order unique gift items, such as Hawaiian flowers or specially baked cookies from New York. works with vendors such as AFS and Teleflora that have a network of florists across the country., based in Minnetonka, MN, went live on February 19, 1999. Depending on the season, the company has two to 20 call center employees. It also has 12 additional, permanent employees, according to Lauren Christiansen, client services director for Christiansen has more than 18 years of call center experience, but was new to the world. She's been with since its inception.

"We thought more people would call us when they had order fulfillment questions," says Christiansen. That wasn't the case. During a holiday season, receives as many as 2,000 orders a day. Of those, approximately 600 will require some form of customer support interaction. Thirty percent of those interactions are by text chat. With text chat, a customer support person responds in writing to the customer in real time; it's an ongoing written dialogue to resolve a problem. "The majority of our customers place orders and never talk to us," notes Christiansen. "Only about 30% of our customers contact us, either by phone, e-mail, or text chat. In the beginning, only 5% of our contacts were via text chat. That number has risen to 30%." This increase is due, in part, to the text chat option button on the Web site, notes Christiansen.

Choosing The Right Customer Support Solution
"Many customers probably think we are huge, but we're not," admits Christiansen. She said most of the company's initial resources went into customer satisfaction, including Web site design, order fulfillment, and customer support. Christiansen was involved in choosing the company's phone and customer support systems. "We had chosen a traditional telecommunications system but learned that it couldn't support text chat," explains Christiansen. then chose Interactive Intelligence, Inc. (Indianapolis) and its Enterprise Interaction Center (EIC). EIC integrates with's PBX (Private Branch eXchange) telephone system for call management and routing. Installation and training on the new system took a total of 10 days. Interactive Intelligence also spent an additional 40 hours "scripting" information into the system, such as a company directory and interactive voice response (IVR) messaging. While the installation was routine, the new system was an eye-opener for phone veteran Christiansen. "I had to change my thinking," admits Christiansen. "I don't have to hit the ‘flash' button on my phone anymore. I can listen to calls on my PC speakers. The PC has almost eliminated the need for the physical phone."

"Pushing" Customer Service is working with Interactive Intelligence on future upgrades. "Our goal is to become more proactive with text chat," says Christiansen. "For example, if a customer is searching our site for more than two minutes, the system alerts a support employee. We can initiate a text chat and ask if the customer needs assistance. It is similar to a salesclerk helping a customer in a retail store." will also "push" URLs (links within the Web page) to customers searching its site, help customers choose the best shipping method for their orders, and complete their coupon information.

Lisa Kerner