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Sterling Commerce offers cross-channel selling service

New approach from AT&T subsidiary melds Web, call center and in-store channels

By Brad Reed, Network World
February 11, 2008 11:34 AM ET

Network World - AT&T subsidiary Sterling Commerce has unveiled a business-to-consumer application that combines call center, Internet and on-location channels in one single channel.

The new offering, says Andy Nicholas, Sterling's vice president of product management, allows businesses to offer customers a greatly simplified ordering process that will connect a company's Web site to its call centers and stores. The application's key feature is an integrated order management platform that encompasses selling, order-taking and delivery. Thus, for instance, a customer using the system will be able to order a product on the Web and then pick it up at the nearest retail store shortly afterward. Conversely, a customer who had a defective product delivered after ordering it on the Web could simply go to a nearby company branch to return and exchange it for a new one, rather than shipping it back to the company via mail.

"The cross-channel nature of these core applications brings you the context to your marketing engine that allows you to do more effective targeting as well as making sure you're engendering the right behavior in your customer base," Nicholas says.

Evan Eakin, the manager for Web development at Boston Market restaurant and catering application, says his company has started using Sterling's cross-channel approach in processing its catering orders. Essentially, a Boston Market customer can place a catering order on the company's Web site and then choose the nearest restaurant location from which to pick it up. The order is then routed directly to the desired store location where it will be available for pickup. In cases where a customer wants the order delivered, the Web site will automatically find the most convenient restaurant and forward the order to that location.

Eakin says installing the cross-channel platform onto his company's network was relatively easy, because Boston Market already uses some of Sterling's hosted services. When Boston Market signed up for Sterling's multichannel approach, it had software installed in its system, and it also received a software development kit. Eakin says businesses don't need to subscribe to Sterling's hosted applications in order to use its cross-channel system, and says Boston Market simply finds having Sterling host everything to be more convenient.

"We serve great food, but we're not a data management company," he says.

Sterling Commerce has been a subsidiary of AT&T since the 2005 merger between AT&T and SBC Communications. Sterling specializes in business process applications such as e-commerce software, supply chain visibility and network support.

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