Ask Jeeves finds his voice

New e-business package gives online butler a voice. Will he be a little more business savvy than the average domestic servant?
Written by Brian Ploskina, Contributor on

Those that think Ask Jeeves is just a search engine have been missing the boat on 40 percent of the company's business. It turns out the online butler has a little more business savvy than the average domestic servant.

Or maybe he just realised, along with the rest of the industry, that the "eyeballs + ads = profits" equation is now being frowned upon by investors. Instead, Jeeves offers an e-business package to the corporate community for assisting customers and partners called the Ask Jeeves Corporate Service suite.

On 6 March, Ask Jeeves is scheduled to announce a new voice component to its corporate platform, based on voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP). The voice offering comes via a technology swap with Trillium Digital Systems, a communications convergence software provider. In return, Trillium will receive Jeeves' Instant Messaging Presence Protocol (IMPP) technology, which enables someone to determine whether a consumer's device is VoIP-enabled.

Using Trillium's H.323 software, Jeeves hopes to provide a new element to the customer experience. "We feel we've taken the next step in humanising the Internet by advancing the progress of voice-over-IP, and allowing our clients to conduct voice conversations over the Internet," said Steve Roop, director of product management at Ask Jeeves.

Roop said VoIP is the final event of an escalation path customers can take to find the product they desire. When a customer comes to a Web site, the first step would be to search for the product he or she wants. Jeeves Answers is the basic search engine most users experience at the Ask Jeeves site; businesses can use it to allow customers to ask plain-language questions, and the Jeeves technology will return the most likely questions the user was really asking.

If the customer still needs help, then he or she can decide to use Jeeves Live, which will open up a chat window between the customer and a sales representative. During the online chat, the sales rep can use Jeeves' IMPP technology to query the customer's computer to find out if it's VoIP-enabled. If so, the sales rep will then suggest to the user that he or she link up for a voice call, using Trillium's technology.

Roop said what sets the Ask Jeeves VoIP session apart from competition, such as Lipstream, is that it's part of a whole escalation path to ensure the customer goes through every alternative sales measure before speaking to a rep.

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