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23 Ways Your Business Can Use the Internet

(NOTE: This is an article listing the ways in which the World Wide Web can be used by businesses. It was authored by Dr. Bill Pierce with the assistance of Dr. Don Altman while both were at Visualogic, Inc. Written during 1994, and therefore ancient by Internet standards, it still is still spot-on, a tribute to Bill's vision.)

Reach a worldwide audience The Internet is a worldwide network allowing you to reach people even very expensive advertising could not.

Provide product information Give customers direct access to information about your products. Some people prefer to learn about products on their own. The Internet has an unsurpassed ability to make information about your company's products or services available to potential customers. It also provides the information when the customer wants it (now).

Save on literature costs Providing the information online reduces the need to print and mail product literature, thereby resulting in significant cost reductions.

Augment/replace phone banks Often people staffing phone banks are serving merely as interfaces to computer databases. In an age of graphical, networked computing, this function is less necessary. Simple graphical interfaces can be designed to allow customers to find the information they want quickly and inexpensively.

Provide easy access to customer service representatives Human interaction cannot be totally replaced by even the best graphical interface. When customers have a question, or would like to speak with a person, provide a list of contacts and phone numbers or allow them to send e-mail directly to a customer service representative, requesting that they be contacted.

Level your customer service load How many customers are turned away unsatisfied when your customer service lines are busy? How often do you have slack times when customer support personnel are not handling calls but still cost your business money? E-mail provides "asynchronous communication" that can help level the load. Customers with problems that do not require immediate attention can send an e-mail message through your Web site which can be handled when support people are not busy. Telephone-tag is eliminated for your customers, and you.

Inexpensively create/augment your corporate image It is easy and inexpensive to define your image on the Internet, whether you are a one-person-company or a large corporation. If your company information changes rapidly due to market forces, there is no easier way to change your image than electronically.

Recruit new employees Many companies (now nearly all), provide current information about job openings and attract talented people from places they could not reach otherwise.

Provide useful information to attract customers Ski shops often have a board listing local snow conditions. Search sites like " yahoo " and " Lycos " provide useful search services for the Web. Providing useful information to potential customers is a good way to get them to come to your site and return again and again (a property now called "stickiness").

Provide your service on-line Many products and services can be delivered over the Internet. Online services will become an even brighter option for many businesses. Since the transaction is electronic, billing and inventory control can be automated, increasing accuracy and reducing your accounting and product storage costs.

Give customers access to searchable information Computers on the Internet allow companies to post information in the form of static Web pages. But, with some of the latest software (or some clever programming) , these computers can also help your customers find the information you are providing quickly. Federal Express created an award winning Web site that allows customers to track their packages. In doing this, Fed- Ex is providing a useful customer service while also promoting their product (service).

Help customers understand why they need you Another thing computers do well is provide artificial intelligence, expertise, or analysis. The Internet allows you to deliver custom software applications and extend your expertise virtually. Suppose you manufacture thermopane windows. A spreadsheet application could allow potential customers to determine how much money they would save in energy costs if they installed your windows. A financial services company could allow potential customers to analyze their investments in light of a financial service the company offers.

Let customers try a sample of your product or service Many new Web tools are becoming available that will allow consumers to try out a sample of what you have to offer before they buy. Gain a competitive advantage by offering a "test drive" of your product or service.

Eliminate the middleman Middlemen exist in some industries where there are barriers to direct contact between producers and consumers. The Internet is a vehicle for removing these barriers. This lowers prices for consumers and increases profits for producers.

On-line commerce This has been much touted in the popular press. Some products and services are well suited for sales on-line. Rapid growth in this area will occur as secure credit card transactions become (are now) standardized. Efficiency of shipping and delivery methods for hard goods is important for typically impatient internet shoppers.

Consider an Intranet Use the same Internet technology within your company to help workers communicate better and work more productively. Many companies are finding an Intranet to be a much more cost effective solution to their network information needs than proprietary software.

Making the Internet Work for You™

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