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Bowing to E-Commerce

The Holy Grail for corporate commerce?

Patricia B. Seybold and Ronni T. Marshak,

Customers.Com: How to Create a Profitable Business Strategy for the Internet and Beyond

. Times Business Books, 1998, 320 pages.

Are you one of those cyber-neanderthals who scoffed at electronic commerce? Did you thumb your nose at

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and the rest of that ilk?

Well, if you did, you're a www-dot-dumbbell-dot-idiot. So says Patricia Seybold in her most recent book, "Customers.Com." But I don't think Seybold wants you to buy her book at the bookstore, or physically walk or drive anywhere further than your iMac or Dell computer to purchase anything.

Seybold, an internationally recognized business consultant whose seminars draw big crowds around the globe, thinks electronic commerce is corporate commerce's Holy Grail. She backs it up, too. According to the book, electronic commerce is also fueling big profits and helping slash costs at many a global company.

Dell Computer

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sells $6 million worth of computer products each day.

Cisco Systems

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has saved more than $550 million a year in customer-service costs for the last three years and now does 62% of its $5 billion a year business on the Internet. And

American Airlines

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recently reached 1.7 million interested prospects in one week via electronic mail. The cost to the airline in advertising and telemarketing dollars? Less than a bag of stale peanuts.

Seybold fortifies these figures with real-life case studies of how companies are leveraging the Internet to beef up their bottom lines.

Brooklyn Union Gas, Bell Atlantic,



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lead a top-shelf list of global companies who are showcased in the book. Seybold augments the real-life case studies with her five steps to success in e-commerce, which reappear throughout the book as a fundamental backdrop in how companies are using the technology. The steps? Make it easy for customers to do business with you; focus on the end customer for your products and services; redesign your customer-facing business processes from the end customer's point of view; wire your company for profit, and foster customer loyalty. To one extent or another, most of the success stories in the book adhere to these principles.

Seybold is a tough cookie and writes like one. But that's fine -- she makes a compelling case, page after page, for electronic commerce. In fact, by the time you put the book down, your more likely to go out and launch your own Web-based business instead of helping your current employer get cyber-happy.

A good read about e-commerce, sprinkled with some rah-rah type cheerleading about the technology and some self-serving points about the author's seminar business, but a good read nonetheless.

Brian O'Connell is a Framingham, Mass.-based freelance writer who has contributed to the Boston Herald, Worth, Communications Week and many other publications. He was senior editor at DEC Professional magazine and contributing writer at LAN Computing magazine from 1989 to 1994. Previously, he worked at the Philadelphia Stock Exchange in the 1980s and as a bond trader on the fixed-income trading desk of Delaware Funds. has a revenue-sharing relationship with under which it receives a portion of the revenue from Amazon purchases by customers directed there from