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With the Live, Customer Interaction that SAP Brings to Your Web Shop, You Can Improve Customer Service - And Help Close the Sale

by Birgit Starmanns | SAPinsider

April 1, 2002

by Birgit Starmanns, SAP Markets SAPinsider - 2002 (Volume 3), April (Issue 2)


Going shopping on the Internet has become a very common task for most of us. We research electronics items that we want to purchase, compare prices of computers and cameras, and buy gifts and books to avoid running from store to store. Being able to access so many “shops” so quickly is fast and convenient for the customer.

The Internet as a sales channel also reduces the cost of taking orders for the providers of these shops. However, there may be missed opportunities. For the companies that provide these Web Shops, this also means that if customers have a problem finding the right information, have an unanswered question about a product, or want to order an out-of-stock item, the competition is only a mouse-click away. In these situations, self-services on a site are not enough.

Enter a live, human representative on the Internet, who is available to answer customer questions immediately.

This representative, or agent, is directly accessible, so that the customer doesn’t even need to leave the Web Shop to search for the right 800-number. Instead, the customer can contact an agent immediately— while still looking at the product within the Web Shop — with questions about technical specs, special delivery, or elusive warranty information. In assisting the customer, the agent then has the opportunity to close the sale, cross-sell complementary products, and increase the conversion rate of browsers to buyers.

By supplementing the automation of the Web Shop with live, human contact between customer and agent, customer service and responsiveness are increased. Live Web Collaboration (LWC) provides this interaction as part of the new functionality introduced with Release 3.0 of SAP Markets Internet Sales.

LWC provides the integration between the Web Shop, in which products are sold through the Internet channel, and the Interaction Center, in which agents respond to customer telephone calls as well as web-initiated contact requests (see “Putting the Pieces Together: LWC in the SAP System Landscape” below).

Putting the Pieces Together: LWC in the SAP System Landscape

Both Internet Sales and the Interaction Center reside within mySAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM). As a result, both solutions take advantage of common business partner and product information.


LWC is a Java-based application, which runs on the SAP J2EE engine (SAP J2EE application server) of Internet Sales (as of Release 3.0). The LWC customer-facing user interface is integrated within the Web Shop, where the customer requests live contact with an agent. The LWC user interface shown to an agent within the Interaction Center may be run on a separate server to accommodate firewall issues. The Interaction Engine handles the initial routing of the web-initiated contact request, then manages the ongoing communication between the customer and agent. The Co-Browsing Engine is accessed when a customer requests a co-browsing session in addition to the initial method of communication.

Agent’s View

The customer experience within the Web Shop can then be passed to the agent using advanced click-stream technology, currently on a project basis. The agent can replay the session to view the actions of the customer that led to the contact request. This tracking of the web customer experience is performed together with products from TeaLeaf Technology, Inc. ( Another application to replay a customer session is available directly from TeaLeaf. Access to the customer’s personalized view of the Web Shop and the actions taken prior to requesting assistance gives the agent a good base upon which to continue the interaction using co-browsing.


As a next step, LWC information will be incorporated into the sophisticated analytics of SAP BW (Business Information Warehouse) to provide information on both call statistics and the business partner interaction history. A consolidated view of all interactions, whether they were initiated from the Web Shop or more traditional channels, such as telephony, provides the maximum information for analysis.

To complete the 360-degree view of all customer contacts, including Internet-based interactions, events (customer actions) performed in the Web Shop are captured and imported into SAP BW (as of Release 2.1). Predefined events, the TeaLeaf session-capturing technology, and predefined reporting structures are delivered as an integral part of Internet Sales and SAP BW. This web-based information, such as placing an item into the shopping basket or requesting a chat, is not available to mySAP CRM if the full business process was not completed. For example, the information that a customer requested a chat, but dropped off the site before an agent picked up the chat request, is valuable input for the optimization of both the Web Shop and the Interaction Center.

Inside the Web Shop: Customer Requests Live Assistance

Instead of simply moving on to a competitor’s site when a question arises, LWC allows the customer to contact an agent directly from within the Web Shop, enabling the agent to provide answers quickly, ensure the loyalty of customers, and — since LWC can be accessed throughout the sales process — close the sale.

Customers most often require the following types of assistance:

Administrative help: Customers may need a password reset in order to access personalized information.

Navigational help: Customers may not be able to find a particular product, or there may be an error on the site.

Informational help: Customers may need additional technical specs for a product, or need to know the return policy for gifts.

Sales order processing help: Customers may be concerned about the freight cost or entering credit card information. Agent responsiveness here is especially critical to closing the sale.

From the Web Shop, customers have a number of options for initiating contact with an agent:

E-mail: Within the Web Shop, e-mail is implemented using a form-based approach, to ensure that this option is accessible from public kiosks. E-mail, as an asynchronous method of communication, is often used for research, when the buying decision is not immediate.

Call-me-back request: The customer provides a telephone number and an initial question. The agent calls the customer back immediately using the provided number. The customer benefits by not needing to search for a number, or waiting on hold before speaking to an agent.

Voice-over-IP (VoIP) request: If the customer does not have access to an additional telephone line, but would still like a callback, VoIP allows the agent to call the customer back using the existing Internet connection. The IP address is read automatically from the customer’s computer.

Chat: Text-based, synchronous communication between customer and agent takes place over the same Internet connection, while the customer is still in the Web Shop. A separate window is opened, allowing the customer to still access the entire Web Shop while communicating with the agent. The customer does not need to download an applet, and no refresh is necessary to display the ongoing chat, allowing for hassle-free communication, as shown in Figure 1. The customer can save and print a transcript of the session, as well as send files to the agent.

Co-browsing (currently available on a project basis): During the course of the communication, the agent and customer may determine that they should share the Web Shop session, to allow the agent to provide maximum service. Co-browsing allows both parties to interactively control the same Web Shop session. The customer’s personalized Web Shop, as well as any information the customer has already completed, such as a form, is available to the agent. To alleviate security concerns for the customer, the agent is prevented from seeing sensitive data (i.e., credit card numbers and passwords) or taking certain actions (i.e., confirming the order). No other desktop applications are shared.

These communication methods facilitate synchronous, live communication between customer and agent, and can be tailored to the goals of the site.

Figure 1 Agent-Customer Communication Without Leaving the Web Shop

Inside the Interaction Center: Agent Responds to Web Shop Customer

To provide the best service, these web-initiated contact requests need to reach the most appropriate agent. For example, a customer with gold status may be routed to the highest-performing agents, or a customer logged on in a particular language can be routed to an agent fluent in this language.

As part of LWC, business routing logic — based on Web Shop context, customer attributes, and agent skills — is implemented. Alternatively, the Web Shop context can be passed to an external routing engine, such as one provided by CTI (computer telephony integrator) vendors. The web-initiated contact request can flow through the multi-channel interface, which manages the different queues (such as Internet, telephony, and e-mail) from which an agent can be contacted in a unified way.

To handle these contact requests efficiently, the Web Shop context is available to the agent, along with contact statistics. For callback requests, the initial question posed by the customer and the contact details are provided. If the contact with the customer occurs via chat, the agent has the ability to choose from predefined phrases, URLs, and files, which can then be sent to the customer. To make the most efficient use of the agent’s time, multiple chats can be processed concurrently. Once each web-initiated interaction is completed, the interaction history is stored in the same format as other contacts handled in the Interaction Center, ensuring consistency for agent handling and for reporting.

LWC is tightly integrated into the Interaction Center, shown in Figure 2, which provides agents with the ability to respond to web-initiated contact requests, while still accessing all other common standard functions, such as researching a customer’s prior orders and interactions. Agents can research customer questions using a familiar environment, while providing a strategic new service to customers in the Web Shop.

Figure 2 The Interaction Center

For More Information

LWC is an integral part of your Web Shop for connecting customers to the Interaction Center and providing enhanced customer service and satisfaction – which, in turn, boosts customer loyalty and sales.

Additional information about the Interaction Center and mySAP CRM is available at For more on Internet Sales and LWC, visit the SAP Markets site,, and look for additional information for customers and partners at, under the solution “mySAP CRM E-Selling.”

Birgit Starmanns holds a B.A. and an M.B.A. from the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia. Birgit joined SAP Markets, Inc. in Palo Alto, California in mid-2000 as product manager for E-Selling Applications. Prior to joining SAP Markets, she was the e-commerce project manager in the Simplification Group at SAP Labs. Before joining SAP, Birgit consulted for nine years at numerous companies on implementing R/2 and R/3. You can reach her at

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