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Service virtually anyway

This article appears in the issue February 1999 [Volume 8, Issue 2]


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Realizing that customers of their customers want answers in many different formats, Inference (www.inference.com) has launched K-Commerce Support 4.0. Building from the legacy of its CBR Content Navigator 3.5 for call centers and Web, K-Commerce adds on E-mail, chat and interactive voice response.Not surprisingly, the "K" in K-Commerce stands for knowledge and according to Nobby Akiha, VP of marketing, the premise of K-Commerce is delivering the same knowledge to the user regardless of access method.Central to that is the knowledgebase or what Inference calls the "K Contact Center." Tapping into that are the E-mail, desktop, Web, Chat and IVR modules.On the desktop or call center side, it is basically an enhanced CBR product that provides conversation-based access to a knowledgebase. Accessible via 32-bit client-server or from an intranet via browser, K-Commerce desktop has received some fine-tuning to give operators shortcuts and access more expertise.Similarly on the Web side, enhancements come with more usage of XML, but the core is from CBR 3.5.E-mail brings a new perspective to the line. With K-Commerce E-mail, the Inference customer can use one of three template options. First, the organization can handle it strictly through E-mail. Second, it can respond by E-mail with a few possible solutions and then steer to the Web site (and perhaps lead to cross-selling). Third, it can use E-mail with possible solutions, followed by some questions the customer could answer to further narrow the problem down.K-Commerce works via a POP3 standard E-mail server. Through a partnership with Kana Communications (www.kana .com), it includes Kana CMS as an E-mail management application.Through a partnership with Periphonics (www.periphonics.com) for voice response and speech recognition, K-Commerce IVR allows users to tap the same knowledgebase.K-Commerce Chat allows customers a one-on-one "chat session" with a representative. That is advantageous because one agent can handle several chat strings at a time, "making the whole flow more efficient," said Akiha."People are just beginning to get into chat," he said, adding that Inference had started seeing its users take interest. Inference has partnered with EShare (www.eshare.com) on the chat version.The "commerce" part of the name deals with leveraging knowledge to gain through E-commerce. By leveraging the information captured about the customer, an operator can better upsell and cross-sell.Also, pointing to a recent figure that only 2.7% of visitors to E-commerce sites actually buy, Akiha said the chat option of K-Commerce is a way to answer "those couple of nagging questions that a customer needs answered before buying."Allen Bonde, director of Advisory Services at the Extraprise Group (www. extraprise.com), said: "I expect the other key knowledge vendors (ServiceSoft, Primus, Molloy, etc) to follow Inference's lead over the next several months and build out their own relationships with the various communication and collaboration vendors."Tom Sweeny, director and principal analyst for Dataquest (www.dataquest .com), said, "When you get to the essence of K-Commerce, it seems less like a product or technology and more like a business process. The key challenge is selling the vision of K-Commerce and finding channels to install the technology and enable the associated processes. I have no doubt that K-Commerce or something conceptually similar will take hold. The key questions are when and who will be the driving force behind it." z

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