April 24, 1997 -- Putting a Face on your Web Presence. Serving Customers On-line. Including: Groceries to Go, Face-to-Face, and a Study of 1000 Commercial Web Sites

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, April 24, 1997. These sessions are scheduled for noon-1 PM Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4) every Thursday.

These sessions are hosted by Richard Seltzer. If you would like to receive email reminders of our chat sessions, simply send a blank email message to or go to and sign up there.

For transcripts of previous sessions and a list of future topics, click here.

For an article on how to make "business chat" work (based on this experience), click here.

Since the chat itself happens at a rapid pace, it's often difficult to note interesting facts in particular URLs as they appear on-line. Here's a place to take a more leisurely look. I've rearranged some of the pieces to try to capture the various threads of discussion (which sometimes get lost in the rush of live chat).

Please send email with your follow-on questions and comments, and suggions for topics we should focus on in future sessions. So long as the volume of email responses is manageable, I'll post the most pertinent ones here for all to see.

Threads (reconstructed after the fact):

Today's Participants:


Richard Seltzer -- The scheduled chat is on Business on the WWW. If you are here for that discussion, please identify yourself.

We're here to share experiences about doing business on the Internet -- particularly the World Wide Web. What works? What doesn't work? Why? What are the trends that matter? How can you/should you adapt to the Internet culture and environment?

I work for the Internet Business Group at Digital Equipment in Marlboro, MA. In that capacity, I end up talking to people from large companies about how they can use the Web for business.

I also have my own personal Web page -- which is content rich and no frills -- which I do for practically nothing and draws a fair amount of traffic and attention.

Richard Seltzer -- Hello, all those of you who are here for the chat session about business on the World Wide Web, please identify yourselves.

Kataryn -- Greeting All ~~~

Kathleen Gilroy -- Hi everybody.

Richard Seltzer -- Hello, Kathleen. and tajtimes, and BillG and Kataryn, and tbarnes and Glen. Everybody, please post a quick intro of yourselves and your interests. That will help us get the discussion going more quickly.

BillG -- Hi - This is Bill Goldenthal checking in from Digital's Camb. Research Lab

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Bill (I didn't recognize you behind that "BillG"
mask. Last week I mentioned Face-to-Face very briefly. Once we get going, I'm hoping that you can provide a description of what this technology is and how it could be used by Web-based businesses.

BillG -- Yes, I'm happy to talk about Face2Face. This is a collaborative effort between the Speech and Vision Projects at CRL

david from groceries to go -- hi all

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, David, glad that you could make it. I'm hoping that you can tell us something about Groceries to Go and the challenges of serving and satisfying customers when an important part of your business takes place off the Web (home delivery).

Kathleen Gilroy -- I'm not sure my last message got through--I'm president of OTTER--Online, Training, Technical and Educational Resources--and interested in new technologies for distance learning.

Glen Hello, I am Glen Feldmann the owner of a wholesale business wanting to setup more effective web page designs, mainly to retail levels. What's on the agenda?

Richard Seltzer -- Agenda-wise -- these are the words I sent out in our weekly
chat reminder: we'll continue our discussion on serving customers on-line, with a focus on "Putting a face on your Web presence. Business on the Web often involves a balancing act -- providing low-cost, automated service but at the same time offering fast personal answers to unique questions; providing a useful, appealing look and feel to your info and your interactions with users, without creating bandwidth/response-time problems. We'd like to hear about businesses/sites that are doing this well and how they are doing it. We'll also hear from Bill Goldenthal, at Digital Equipment's Cambridge Research Labs about "Face-to-Face", technology in development which can provide videophone effects at low-bandwidth (without transmitting video), and can literally put a face on your Web site. Other new participants who have said they plan to join us this time include David Cuthbert from Groceries to Go and Professor James Ho from the University of Illinois at Chicago, who recently did a study of 1000 commercial Web sites.

Jim Ho -- Hi, I'm Jim Ho from the U. of Illinois at thanks to Sudha Jamthe's invitation

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Hi! I work for Elcom Systems, a full-circle electronic commerce software company, in Westwood. I work in the marketing department and am always interested in better ways to market on the Internet.

tbarnes -- hello!

Kataryn -- i"m an online consultant and most interested in Bill's Face to Face Vidio presentation.

Kaye Vivian -- Hi Richard and all..nice to be back again! :)

david from groceries to go -- Oh, I should have introduced myself...I'm David Cuthbert, President and Founder of Groceries To Go, located in Medford, MA.

Alan Majer -- Hi, I'm interested in many aspects of electronic commerce. I'm interested to hear more about what both David and BillG are doing..

Tom Dadakis -- Hi everyone. I'm an Internet consultant for has advised IBM,GE & GE Capital on their Internet/Intranet sites

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Hello all this is BobZ in Maypearl, Texas

tbarnes -- I should have introduced myself. I'm Tuwenia (too-wanna) and I'm a grad student at George Mason University. I'm doing lots and lots of research on e-commerce, particularly for my MIS/e-commerce class, but also for my job (I work in Marketing.)

Sudha Jamthe -- Hi Richard, How are you doing? I am late, but very glad to join in today.

Groceries to Go

david from groceries to go -- Thanks Richard...Groceries To Go is the country's first internet-only grocery retailer. We only take orders on the net--no phone or fax.
I'd be happy to share our experiences with respect to interacting with customers outside of the online environment.

david from groceries to go -- In our case, we view ourselves solely as a grocery retailer, albeit one that interacts with customers in a new and different manner. However, at the end of the day, we are a grocery retailer, not an Internet company.

Kaye Vivian -- David, we heard about Groceries to go a few weeks ago for the first time. I'm interested in what is your scope of service and are you limited geographically? (sorry..I'm on a very slow connection on a laptop today)

david from groceries to go -- Richard...What is the protocol in this chat room? Should I answer people's questions, or wait until other participants are through speaking?

Richard Seltzer -- David -- Yes, please go right ahead and answer questions directly. Things are likely to get a bit hectic with different threads of discussion going on at the same time. I'll try to sort it all out in the transcript afterward.

Kaye Vivian -- David, just talk away and tell us may not be sensible in here, but by the time Richard organizes the discussion by subject and posts it, it will make perfect sense :)

david from groceries to go -- Kaye, Groceries To Go is located in Medford MA, just off of I-93, at Routes 38 and 16. (For anybody who lives in Boston and commutes along I-93 north, we are an easy-on, easy-off from the highway.) We offer both drive-through pickup service and delivery. For delivery, we offer home delivery as well as delivery to companies. There are no fees to use our basic service, and our prices are competitive with supermarkets. We are independently owned, and we are not affiliated with any supermarket chain.

Richard Seltzer -- David -- Drive-through pickup sounds particularly attractive. What hours are you open for that? I could imagine placing an order over the Web from the office and picking up groceries on the way home -- a real time saver, especially in emergencies.

Glen David-- Does grocery to go have any problems or requests from people who want to place orders via phone or fax? Downside to this loss of customer service interaction?

tbarnes -- David of "gtg", are any of your suppliers selling their services on the Web? That is, can you us the Net to order stock?

Richard Seltzer -- David -- How does Groceries to Go compare to Peapod? How do your business models and services differ? And is there any hope that you will be available in the West Roxbury area soon? And are you familiar with ShopLink another local startup proposing to do similar things?

Kaye Vivian -- David, have you thought to expand your grocery business by franchising it or making arrangements with grocers in other cities to be "pickup" spots? Sounds like a fabulous idea!

david from groceries to go -- Kaye, that sounds like an interesting idea. I never get tired of talking about Groceries To Go. :-)

Richard, we are open from 1-7 M-F, and 12-6 on Saturdays. We have a lot of customers who place their orders from work in the morning, then stop by on their way home. People can shop until 10 AM the same day.

People like the convenience, flexibility and low cost of the drive-thru service. It allows them to come by on their schedule, and not pay any fees. We load the order right into the car, so people can stay buckled in (very important when customers stop by with kids). The whole transaction takes just a couple of minutes.

Btw, we are the only company in the country to offer Internet ordering combined with drive-thru pickup service.

Sudha Jamthe -- David (of gtg): I saw you recent posting in Web-Net mailing list. What should one do to get gtg delivery at their workplace. My company HR is looking for details. What is their role in it?

david from groceries to go -- Sudha, we offer a service in which companies can provide grocery delivery to their employees, as a perk. We currently have two clients. We meet the customers at work between 4:30 and 5, at about the time they are leaving for the day. This aspect of our service is quite popular. If anyone is interested in having us provide our service to the employees at their company, please contact me directly at, or 617 391-1700.

tbarnes -- David of "gtg", are any of your suppliers selling their services on the Web?
That is, can you us the Net to order stock?

david from groceries to go -- Tbarnes, our suppliers are not on the web. We order the old-fashioned way, with the telephone!

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- David, in regard to GTG, I know our local Star is now offering a delivery service to its customers. $7.50 for delivery. There seems to be a lot of competition suddenly out there for the same market.

david from groceries to go -- Kaye, we expect to expand to additional locations in the near future. We have always regarded the existing chains as our natuaral partners, not competitors. They bring the resources to bear, while as entrepreneurs, we bring ideas, flexibility and speed.

BillG -- David - Have you looked into delivery of the groceries?

david from groceries to go -- The main difference between GTG and companies such as Peapod is that we are an actual retailer, while they are shopping and delivery services. We earn our profit the way all retailers do, by buying wholesale and selling retail. In contrast, the third party service companies make money by charging hefty delivery fees. We can compete against them by offering low fees or even no fees. In fact, we just launched home delivery with a very modest fee structure.

Kataryn -- Bill ~~~ Do you plan any demonstrations in the Northern California area?

Glen -- David-- How many customers have you or do you presently service? Just MA for now?

david from groceries to go -- Glen, our customer count is currently in the hundreds. We have been open since September, 1996. At the moment, we operate solely in MA.

Richard Seltzer -- David -- That sounds like an interesting business model. Do you mean that you buy all your groceries wholesale and sell them all retail only over the Internet? If so, doesn't that mean that you save on all the expensive overhead of fancy brick-and-mortar stores? All you need is warehousing space that's well-organized for moving the goods in and out.

david from groceries to go -- Richard, that's exactly right. We have our own warehouse, where we stock items. However, our volume at the moment is such that we actually shop for many items in the supermarket, and essentially sell them at cost. As we grow, we will transition over to full warehouse fulfillment.

tbarnes -- David of gtg--I think your enterprise would be very profitable here in the Washington, DC area; i.e. the suburbs of Maryland and Northern Virginia. I can think of at least five reasons--off the top of my head--why people would use your service here! Have you given expanding "south" any thought?

david from groceries to go -- tbarnes, we plan to take our concept regionally, and ultimately nationally. At the moment, we are focused on refining our operations and making sure that we fully understand what our customers' needs are, and how we can best meet those needs. In a profitable way, I should add! :-)

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- David, do people order their groceries through your web page or do they have to have special software and a CD-Rom you supply?

david from groceries to go -- Barbara, all ordering takes place directly on our website, located at There is no software to buy, download or install. That is one of the key strengths of the Internet, and why we have chosen to focus our energies there. We only need to maintain one set of code, and people can access our "store" from anywhere with a net connection.

Richard Seltzer -- David -- I really like your model. The idea of not having to install software of any kind makes good sense.

Glen -- David-- I have hear of Hanafords doing the same thing? Is that a competitor? How do you differ from them besides not allowing delivery to a home?

david from groceries to go -- Glen, we do now offer home delivery. We differ from Hannaford in that we offer a menu of distribution options, including home delivery, corporate delivery and drive-thru pickup. We think that there is no one answer in this marketplace. Also, we differ in that we are independent. We don't have to answer to a huge corporate parent. This gives us the freedom to try out new things to enhance our service, and to move quickly if we need to.

Richard Seltzer -- David -- Where are your drive-through pickup locations?
While I live in West Roxbury, my commute might possibly take me by one of your locations.

david from groceries to go -- Richard, at the moment, we have one pickup location, in Medford. If you ever drive along I-93 north of Boston, we are a quick stop. :-)
We are definitely looking to open up additional locations. In the meantime, we are rolling out home delivery to area communities, including Cambridge, Arlington, Somerville, Belmont, Watertown and Waltham.

Glen -- David-- Where do you see the service going and growing within the internet/web based commerce? What are your key points to effective retailing and customer service?

david from groceries to go -- Glen, GTG is committed to using media that allow us to communicate to customers what we have to offer, and allow customers to order from us, in a cost effective manner. So far, the Internet has proven to be the most appropriate medium, as compared to proprietary software, CD ROM, or paper based catalogs.

david from groceries to go -- The key points are of course listening to the customer, and doing whatever it takes to satisfy the customer. People have different expectations of our service before the use it the first time. We are creating a new model, so it requires a lot of customer education and hand-holding. It is important to be flexible and to learn from one's customers.

Richard Seltzer -- David -- You might consider as a way to expand more quickly, opening up pick up points in new territories before you are ready to offer door-to-door delivery there.

david from groceries to go -- Richard, your market-entry strategy makes a lot of sense.

Glen -- David, if cost wasnt as much of a factor, would you like to implement your web based retail strategy with other means? Why?

david from groceries to go -- Glen, what do you mean, "implement our retail strategy by other means?"

Glen -- David-- If money wasn't any object, meaning would you offer other CD rom technology or paper based catalogs? Or is that outside of a profitable business model for your business?

david from groceries to go -- Glen, probably not. While those options may help to gain additional revenues, we would be trading decreased profits. Also, those avenues would dilute our focus.

Glen -- David- Thanks and best of luck! I am going to check out your page to become more acclimated.

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- David, How did you go about getting your few hundred customers. It is such a new industry and people have to be convinced.

david from groceries to go -- Barbara, you are absolutely correct. Our biggest challenges are to get the word out and to build trust. We have advertised on the web, with fliers, in newspapers, etc. We have also found that forums such as this are a good way to get the word out. Most of our customers come to us through word-of-mouth.

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Thanks, David. 


Richard Seltzer -- Basically, I feel that "serving" customers is key to running
an on-line business (far more important than security or software for transactions). And I believe that there are several different aspects to real "service". One piece is finding the right way to provide a personal experience for the user -- in a way that is not expensive, but that is responsive and memorable. I can imagine using Face-to-Face in that context. Also, I feel that it is important to think of a business as a whole -- not just what happens on the Web, but all the ways you can and should relate to customers.

Richard Seltzer -- Bill -- This chat environment often gets a bit chaotic. Please feel free to go ahead and give a quick definition of Face-to-Face, as sense of where you stand in the development cycle, and how this might be applied. Then just go ahead and answer any questions that arise.

BillG -- Let me describe f2f a bit so you all have an idea of what Richard's seen and how this might be useful...the basic idea is we can take a picture of a face, any face, and animate it with live or canned audio...we do this over the web, currently using plug-ins for both input and output...

Richard Seltzer -- Bill -- You might add that the "face" resides on the PC. The receiver of the message has a computer model of the image and voice (which can be streaming real-time voice coming over the Internet) leads to the face moving/speaking. (The phonemes are translated to muscle movements. (Does that sound right, Bill? I'm trying to paint a picture that folks who have never seen this can appreciate what it's like and the fact that the whole thing -- not just the plug in part -- can run on PCs, rather than large fancy systems).

BillG -- F2f consists of three technologies…
1) Audio capture and transmission using the DIGITAL Voice Plugin (available for free download from
2) Phonetic recognition, which determines what sounds were spoken and when
3) Facial animation…the sounds are mapped to viseme units which determine the correct facial "gestures." These are then rendered in synch with the audio by the FaceMe! Player or a plugin version.

Kathleen Gilroy -- We are running a teleconference over satellite and would like to have the means to bring in people via the web and to post the program on the web afterwards.

Richard Seltzer -- Kathleen -- I could easily imagine using Face-to-Face in a teleconference environment. Advantages -- fast and realistic face motion with low bandwidth (because you aren't transmitting the video of the face. Also, the person talking doesn't have to be self-conscious about personal appearance. It doesn't matter if hair goes in your face or there's a stain on your shirt -- the image is canned: it's you the way you want to look, but speaking naturally. By the way, you are near Cambridge Research Labs, you might want to try to schedule a demo (though, of course, I expect that the developers don't have a lot of time right now).

Alan Majer -- BillG - do you think that the techniques which you're using could ever be adapted to production animation?

BillG -- Yes, absolutely!

BillG -- Like Richard said, it can be any face you want…this includes animals, cartoon characters, any way you'd like to represent yourself or anything else

Richard Seltzer -- Alan -- I could easily imagine it used for production animation -- at low cost. In their demo at Internet World, Bill and the others from CRL had animal faces as well as human faces speaking naturally, and in French and other languages as well as English.

BillG -- since only the sounds matter - we don't care about the actual words - the application is language independent.

BillG -- I should add that the automatic rendering of the mouth gestures is not practice, it looks pretty good close to all of the time..for high quality work, we are developing an SDK to allow people to get things just right...

Alan Majer BillG - I've hear some of the newer computer animation criticized on the grounds that much of the emotion that goes into animation is difficult to impossible to reproduce without some kind of human intervention. Do you believe that your software can overcome this hurdle.

BillG -- Alan - For truly high quality stuff, you will need some human intervention. BTW - our protocol does allow for the incorporation of emotional gestures - smiles, frowns, eyebrow movements, winks, etc. However, the s/w works in sub-real time. An animator could try a lot of things quickly and check out how they looked. Then refine whatever they want to actually use.

Richard Seltzer -- Alan -- From an animation and game point of view, there's a neat feature built-in -- you can make the face on your screen smile or frown by moving a scale with your mouse (like adjusting volume.)

Kathleen Gilroy -- Bill G--how does this technology compare to CUCme?

Kathleen Gilroy -- BillG--can you comment on CUCme?

Richard Seltzer -- Kathleen, about CUSeeMe in comparison to Face-to-Face. They are totally different (but perhaps in some applications they could be complementary). CUSeeMe transmits live video and audio. With face to face the image sits on the recipients screen and moves (like a sophisticated puppet) -- the muscles of the face moving in synch with the sound. That means you get a clear crisp image and a very realistic effect.

Kathleen Gilroy -- BillG--I think we could demonstrate your technology in an important forum for 10,000 educators and nonprofit and business leaders.

BillG -- Kathleen - When and where...I can put you in touch with our business development guy, Mike Essig...

Kathleen Gilroy -- BillG - 9/25/97 - a national teleconference on leadership
we are doing with Peter Drucker and others

BillG -- well we are in a road show mode following internet world...Mike and I have been planning a west coast trip for sometime in the not-too-distant future...

BillG -- K - 9/25 might be tough, as we are away at a conference in that the only day?

Kathleen Gilroy -- BillG - that's the day we are live--but we would have it all set up prior to that day with several sites coming into LA via F2F

BillG -- K - we could probably set you up with some good canned stuff that you could play at the show

Kathleen Gilroy -- BillG - I'd like some of the big shots from the remote sites to come in live that way (as opposed to CUSeeMe)

BillG -- K - We have a lot of time before that date. I'm sure we could work out something effective. I have something I can get you in the meantime so you can get a feel for what we've got.

Richard Seltzer -- Kathleen -- Face-to-Face might be particularly useful for the "big shots" who tend to be very self-conscious about how they might look in a new medium. Where they might balk at getting in front of a live camera, this could and should be a much more comfortable environment.

Alan Majer -- Richard - On the other hand, these people would also need to be aware that the end-user could dress them up any way they wish. They could be talking out of the face of some ridiculous cartoon face or something if the end-user pleases :-)

BillG -- Alan - We have plans to arrange it so that the sender can include the face to be used by the player...

Alan Majer -- BillG - Since your product works by interpreting a stream of audio does that mean it that I could use it with other voice channels ranging from Real Audio to Keriokee (sp?)

BillG -- When we demo here at CRL I just put my mic next to a stereo speaker and pipe NPR live to an office a few doors down where it comes out the face…results with music/singing range from hilarious to not-so-great - but you could pipe any talking audio through it with very good results…

Alan Majer -- Richard - I can see how that might also have application as 3-D gaming becomes more advanced since it might possibly aid in building facial expressions into the characters.

Richard Seltzer -- Alan -- Imagine an on-line three-D image video game where there are some fixed characters and also characters representing the live players -- and all of them can appear (with real face or selected persona) and "speak".

BillG -- Alan - I'm a big believer in this stuff for all types of Internet gaming. You could use both "canned" and live audio. Players could use their own faces or different characters. The speech group also does work in more traditional speech areas such as conversational systems and speaker recognition which could also play a role in gaming (and other things)

Alan Majer -- BillG - What does your software transmit? The facial expression data, the audio, or both?

BillG -- A - we transmit both...

Alan Majer -- Richard - I remember viewing a VRML area where people could move around using avatars. The space actually seemed deviod of any life since all the avatars were basically expressionless. With technology like this the experience could be far more interactive. It might be even more interesting if adapted to a 3-D MUD.

Alan Majer -- BillG - Do you have any plans to investigate imaging or facial recognition? I'd imagine that there would also be a number of applications for software which could read a persons facial image directly and transmit that information to be reproduced in much the same way as it is done with audio information now.

BillG -- Alan - We have talked about it with the vision guys here at CRL...this type of thing is still a bit farther off to do reliably...although in a game, errors are not as critical

Alan Majer -- BillG - Yes, I'd imagine that errors could be very critical if the system is used in a business/videoconferencing environment. After all, the wrong expression at a critical juncture in the conversation could make a deal fall through etc. 

Study of 1000 Commercial Web Sites

Richard Seltzer -- Jim I was very pleased to see your study of Internet businesses (the URL is at the transcript for out last session, thanks to Sudha Jamthe). Could you tell us something about your study, where folks can get it, and whether you plan to do updates? All -- this is a study of 1000 commercial Web sites that considers all aspects of what they do on the Internet (interesting categories of what I'd call "service").

Jim Ho -- For the initial study of 1000 commercial Web sites in US & Canada (and subsequently a series of global comparative studies) I proposed a simple framework to evaluate value-added from the *customer's perspective*. In this sense, it is quite relevant to our theme of customer service...

Richard Seltzer -- Jim -- what are the main categories of value-added that you found? (and please provide the URL to help people get to the study).

Kaye Vivian -- Jim H, please be sure to give us your URL to check later. :)

Tom Dadakis -- Dr. Ho, do you plan to to have an update of your survey?

Jim Ho -- We classify any feature of a Web site by its (primary) Purpose:

and type of value to the user: Obviously, there are other categories. But we found that this 12 combo pretty much cover all we can find so far. Please see summary reports at

Richard Seltzer -- Jim -- I believe that your study dated from last spring. Is there a n updated version in the works? Do you plan to study the differences since then and the trends?

Jim Ho -- Richard, Yes, an update is due by mid-Summer. With the rapid development in terms of number of sites, fancy Java scripts, etc. many new features are emerging. But you may be surprised that overall, the pattern of value creation is quite consistent, especially over diverse geographical and cultural regions. Overall, it is still mainly promotional. We are all waiting to see "truly compelling" use of the Web.

Alan Majer -- Jim Ho - How long did it take you to go through all these web sites? Were they classified by the same person, or a number of people?

Tom Dadakis -- Dr. Ho Your study was very helpful when I had to assess over 100 sites for IBM. How did you determine your criteria for evaluating websites? Have you approached these sites from a customers point of view?

Jim Ho -- Tom, We picked the criteria empirically, after looking at large enough examples. It wasn't based on past theoretical models. For this reason, true academics tend to wave it off. But I have been able to use this framework as a vocabulary for senior executive to begin thinking strategically about the Web. Please see also earlier msg.

Tom Dadakis -- Dr. Ho - re: Criteria for evaluating websites -- I particiapated in the design of GE's website in 1995. We interviewed the 60 different operating companies that makeup GE. The main question we asked was "What if formation does your customer want to know?" Surprisingly many of these companies had never thought of asking that question; they primarily concentrated on what they wanted to tell their customers. 


Kaye Vivian -- Sorry to be way off the subject, but this might also be of interest to our guests today...I happened to browse over to the RealAudio web site this week, and they have an extremely interesting collection of RealAudio interviews there...a lot of business topics and interviews. Perhaps David and Jim should do audio tapes talking about their business and have them posted there.

Sudha Jamthe -- Hi Kaye, I have been reading many followup messages you sent to Richard's transcripts. You've raised an interesting promotion channel by recording
interviews. I am curious how many people prefer to hear the interviews over reading them? Is there is a preference? 

"Solution Space"

Sudha Jamthe -- Jim Ho: I attend evening MBA at BU where I took a recent
class about "Strategic IT transformations" with Prof.Venkatraman. His research is focused on value creation with interactions. This goes in line with Richard Seltzer's belief that the internet is not just information but its tru power lies in interaction. Have you read about the value addition with the web moving from browser space to solution space where services act as conduits to provide total solution. What are your thoughts about this?

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- That was a mouthful. Sounds interesting and provocative, but I can't really absorb what you mean on the fly like this. I'll have to ruminate while doing the transcript.

Jim Ho -- Sudha, We can fit the solution-space concept under value-added (all 4 types) in Processing. Maybe not as elegantly, but I agree with the significance.

Richard Seltzer -- Jim, Sudha, Tom -- Sounds like a very important topic -- but I still don't get the concept. I hope that in the quiet time of working with the transcript it will become clearer to me. 

Customer service on-line & importance of email

Jim Ho -- Coming back to customer service online, I believe that even simply atttending to e-mail, not to mention personal customer support, is nontrivial. Have you discussed the story in WSJ a couple of months ago on how they sent e-mail queries (e.g "Does film really keep longer in the freezer" to Kodak) to major sites, and the typical lack of response?

Richard Seltzer -- Jim -- I didn't see that article about email, but I'm a firm believer in its importance. But I'm surprised -- very surprised -- if Kodak is given as an example of how not to do it. My impression is that they are very Internet-savvy and that the cost-justification of their Web presence is customer retention through problem resolution. John Vaeth from Kodak, who I've heard talk about that, was with us here last week.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Speaking of testing email response, I have sent several Requests for Price Quotes to Computer hardware vendors over a period of time, but have NEVER received any response. Response to Faxes of the same content are at 100 %. Is the Internet a toy for people to only show their stuff ?

Richard Seltzer -- Bob@Cottage -- I also have had many experiences of Web sites not answering email, or only answering after a long delay, or not even providing an email address (or even a street address or phone number). It's bizarre.

Kathleen Gilroy -- Service is the key to profitability via customer retention rates. Most companies don't do it well yet by phone and fax. Email is an afterthought.

Jim Ho -- Richard, That reminded me of how in an early version of its Web site, Saturn (GM) put at the bottom something to the effect that there is no e-form or e-mail link because they couldn't realistically at that point provide response that meet their own quality standards. A minor point perhaps, but one that stuck in my mind.

Tom Dadakis -- Rich, customer service on the web is like an 800 call center but setup for the web. There was a recent article in one of the magazines about this. I'll find it & email you the url after the chat.

Tom Dadakis -- Although we touched on customer service through a website a few weeks ago, Dr. Ho's suggestion may be worth a full chat session. I have had to investigate case-based reasoning software for large web sites. These may be over kill but there are some interesting products coming out, like


Richard Seltzer -- All -- I love this kind of active three-ring circus discussion. I'm hoping that we will be able to continue all three major threads next week. Bill, Jim, and David, will you be able to come back next week? Also, I'm hoping we can get some good followup email messages to round out what has been said today.

BillG -- Richard - how do you keep up with all three?! I, or someone in my group will be available next week...

Richard Seltzer -- All -- do you agree that we're on a good track right now and should continue these threads next week?

Alan Majer -- Richard - Sounds like a good idea to me.

tbarnes -- Richard, yes, I think we're on the right track. Will our guests be back next week?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard, I think that customer support is the key to sucess on the web and would like to continue it's disscussion next week. I intend to research the Face2Face concept a little more since I got in late on the topic and don't fully understand it's principles. Thanks, Bob

Richard Seltzer -- Please send email with followup to Check for transcript.

david from groceries to go -- Richard, I'd be happy to join the group next week.

Jim Ho -- Richard, OK, I plan to be back next week.

BillG -- I'll commit to another week...

Richard Seltzer -- Terrific. Sounds like we've got a quorum for next week. Thanks again.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- before you leave, please post your email and URLs. Don't count on the sign- in software having captured that. Sometimes that doesn't get saved. Thanks all for a great session. Hope you can make it again next week. Please spread the word.

Tom Dadakis -- Good chat.

Jim Ho -- If we continue on with customer service, you might be interested in taking a look at "Lessons from Business School Web Sites" Jim Ho

Glen -- Thanks- Glen Feldmann

david -- Missed the chat - but I will check the results from it !

BillG -- OK, I'm going back to work. K or A, my number is on my homepage if you'd like to give me a call. if you don't get it page (just read Richard's last msg).

david from groceries to go -- Thanks everybody. Please feel free to email me at Take care.

Alan Majer -- My e-mail address is:

tbarnes -- Tuwenia:

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Bye!

Tom Dadakis -- Richard, I found the article but it is restricted article at Forrester Research. Forrester Report, Telcom Strategies; Call Centers Meet the Web;V1,#9; by David Cooperstein, David Goodtree, Sarah Smith & John Mcknight. Perhaps we could ask them to particpate in one of our chats.


Any startups looking for support?

From: Sudha Jamthe <> Date: Thu, 24 Apr 1997 12:55:04 -0400

My connection seems to have slowed down terribly and I think its only my end here(hopefully). Looks like many lively discussions going on today. Will try to login again.

Can you please post the following if I don't join in soon:

We have a new Web incubator starting in East coast by a Web-Net member and would like to hear from new startups looking for support. Anyone know of channels to reach them? Some mailing list or User Group or Newsletter? Email


Previous transcripts and schedule of upcoming chats --

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