Lipstream Speaks to Kana
Lipstream Networks, Inc., a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service
provider recently signed Kana Communications, Inc. as a customer. Lipstream's
product, Live Voice, will add voice communications to ecommerce websites
that use Kana's RealTime application.
first major achievement was enabling Excite's voice chat, which quickly
became one of the most popular features on Excite. Lipstream recognized
that their VoIP technology had applications in ecommerce, and designed
Live Voice to be incorporated in popular CRM suites such as Quintus' eContact
Suite and Kana's eBusiness applications.
Voice allows CRM vendors to voice enable websites and CRM applications.
The customer needs speakers, a microphone, and a minimum 28.8K-baud Internet
connection. Consumers can also interact with the customer representatives
via text chat and listen to the service representative's response. Lipstream
offers Live Voice to CRM vendors in two packages:
- Web Client
- This is a featherweight ActiveX control that downloads and installs
on a user's PC in less than a minute. Twenty lines of html code are
required to embed the control into any web page. Lipstream owns and
manages the back-end network that handles the actual connection, and
provides access as a service.
Developer Kit (SDK) Version - This version provides CRM vendors a flexible
foundation to develop custom applications or voice enable any existing
application. The SDK version contains features not found in the Web
Client such as the ability to record and playback conversations, supervisor
capabilities such as monitoring multiple conversations and invisibly
joining conversations. The SDK version also takes advantage of Lipstream's
network to handle the communications.
to CRM vendors, Lipstream has sold Live Voice to distance learning vendors,
community chat sites other than Excite, and business service firms such
as Webex, which provides an online meeting service. Lipstream currently
has 28 customers. Pricing for the service is flexible and can be done
on a per seat or transaction basis.
The number of ecommerce sites using VoIP to provide interactive customer
service is sure to grow in response to customers that are dissatisfied
with the service functions of most websites. This technology will undoubtedly
play a major role in ecommerce in the future. Appropriate use of this
technology will combat problems associated with confused customers that
leave a site during product inquiries or customers that abandon their
shopping carts. Wide spread use of this technology is also going to threaten
ecommerce companies who have a business model that relies on low customer
interaction and limited pre- and post-sale human contact.
are short-term challenges preventing the proliferation of VoIP enabled
ecommerce sites. The biggest may be convincing consumers to find their
microphones and plug them into their computers. Lipstream estimates that
60% of computers bought for consumer use came with a microphone, but it
is unknown what percentage of those consumers actually have it plugged
in. Furthermore the use of VoIP in ecommerce requires sales representatives.
Many companies have the technological capability to implement VoIP products
but lack the sales and service resources necessary to support a VoIP enabled
website. These companies face big obstacles that will slow the acceptance
of VoIP. Some of their challenges are installing and managing a call center
or working with a third party to adequately outsource call center services.
main competitors are Net2Phone and HearMe. Net2Phone has more market awareness
with consumers than Lipstream, but the installation of their software
is considerably larger than Lipstream's, whose download takes less than
a minute on a 28.8-baud connection. HearMe has a similar product to Live
Voice called HearMe for Ecommerce.
Firms evaluating the purchase of a CRM suite should strongly consider
using service representatives to assist their online customers. Text based
chat is an option, but voice communications have the potential to foster
stronger customer relationships because it is a more intuitive form of
communication. Stand-alone VoIP products are available, but VoIP built
into a CRM suite makes sense because the consumer data that a service
representative should have at the time of a customer inquiry is collected
and managed by a CRM system. Firms should include the following questions
when evaluating a CRM vendor:
your product have a VoIP application that can link website visitors
to our call center?
- Who is
responsible for handling the back-end communications network, our company
or the VoIP developer?
- Can you
explain the capacity/scalability of the network if the VoIP developer
does the consumer need to operate VoIP? How big is the consumer download?
- How much
customization of your product will be required to provide the functionality
my company requires?
questions will help develop a sense of the ROI on a VoIP enabled CRM product.