Sunday, October 02, 2005

Inside Taiwan's Virtual Mall

A close friend of mine whom I deeply admire does research on home shopping and TV and internet retailing in Taiwan. One thing he emphasizes is how different the marketing style is here. Another thing he has remarked on in his work is Taiwan's superior infrastructure for internet and TV shopping. The great number of delivery services, their ease of use, and the low delivery fees, make this a paradise for those of us who like to sit on their butts in front of the cornucopia that is Yahoo online shopping and drool over the possibilities for hours on end (that's you, my darling wife).

Enterprise Networks Asia has an interesting article on the use of technology in call centers for Eastern Home Shopping Network, which serves some 2.5 million members (out of 23 million people in Taiwan!).

While there are businesses that still view their call/contact center as a way to save rather than earn revenue, that's not the case with Taiwan's Eastern Home Shopping Network (EHSN). In fact quite the opposite.

When you're the country's largest virtual retail outlet, the contact center becomes the heart of the business and an area that finance is not hesitant to spend money on, as senior vice president Tina Wu explained.

"We are the spirit of this company," Wu said of her contact center staff. "Most call centers are a cost center but we are the profit center, so I have a lot of budget and can recruit more staff and don't have to wait to upgrade."

EHSN was founded in 1999 and uses television, catalogs and the Internet as channels to sell everything from cosmetics and jewelry to electrical goods and furniture-basically anything you would find in a major department store. Except instead of customers coming through the door, they're coming through the company's contact center.

Their order taking system is very cool:

One of the strategies EHSN is using to cope with peak loads is an IVR order taking system, basically a self-service system that can divert some customers away from the call agents. They even have strategies to encourage customers to use the IVR option, which has special phone numbers, such as offering a refund of $4 for those that order this way and by promoting it on the TV channels. "We look at the $4 as a training cost to train the customer," Wu points out.

IVR is just one of the self-service channels that EHSN is trying to promote to ease the workload for agents. They are also aiming to do more via the Internet, which today only represents 5 percent of the business.

Another capability of the system is that it can provide priority to those customers that EHSN classifies as VIP. These calls can be directly routed to people with more experience or who are good at resolving problems. It's just one example of the segmentation and service possible through the system.

For example the system can match tasks based on the previous customer contact history and agent's profile. Corresponding information will then be brought up to the agent's desktop on a screen-pop to help the agent understand the customer profile. Customers are segmented by the system based on purchase habits and then the system directs calls on to the appropriate group or sales.


Anonymous said...

Clyde Said:

Ten percent of the population adds up to over 2.5 billion USD in sales last year. That means in just five years EHSN has reached the revenue level of QVC in America, which did it in 20 years and with a much larger population base. And people ask me why I do marketing research in Taiwan, as if the only place that matters for marketing is the US. Think Again!

rmdazwdv said...

IMHO internet shopping in Taiwan is terrible compared to the USA. Everything is 20% more expensive, and 2 - 3 months behind. At least for computer parts. Yes, there is yahoo here, but... that's about it. I get the impression people here are afraid to use their credit cards online, and merchants are afraid to compete online, resulting in less competition, and thus higher prices. Where is the pricegrabber, the pricewatch, the ibuyer, the amazon, the eBay, the overstock, the walmart, the bestwebbuys, the froogle dot com of Taiwan? I generally buy on US web sites and stockpile it for my next trip or have a friend or relative bring it over.

Red A said...

I wanted to set up a beer of the month club here, and was very excited I could even deliver COLD beer via Takyubin!

Of course, selling beer via mail-order is illegal here, so that idea died.

I think mail order catalogs must do well though, DHC in particular.