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Digi-Net Groopz 2.0
Online live customer interaction java based server.

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting
Tuesday, October 26, 2003; 3:00pm EST

Many companies have dreamt of one on one communication across the Internet with their web site visitors that would give their customers the answers they are looking for, and that warm fuzzy feeling of interaction with real people. The problem, was the methods of creating this communication channel. In the past these channels were usually complicated proprietary software, client browser plug-ins, or semi-chat rooms that were never really up to the task.

Having live operators ready to answer questions, and proactively provide assistance to their web site visitors with a software application that is robust; multi-platform compatible; easily set up and configured; and uses pre-existing client end technology is now available. Thanks to Gainesville, Florida based Digi-Net Technologies company, producer of a product called Groopz 2.0.

It works by having three components exist. A server component that can reside on a wide range of platforms (Windows 9x/Me/NT/2000, MacOS, Linux or Solaris), an operator component (as pictured to the left) for the live operators to manage their in/outgoing calls and simple HTML modifications to the pages of your web site that you wish to enable this functionality (typically as many as possible for more depth of customer information). When a user visits your site, the small Java applet that is part of those HTML page modifications sees that the user is viewing the page, sends this fact and other details about the user back to the server, which in turn updates all the user activity information on the operators console. The operator console is a powerful tool that lets you peer into the traffic of your site. Seeing who is there, how long they have been both on the site and at the current page they are on, even the path of pages the user has examined! Additionally, technical information such as browser, operating system, language, provider address and much more is available to Groopz operators.

You can click on any of the people who are visiting your site and create a communication channel or, alternatively, a user can click an icon which is displayed on the pages having the Groopz HTML modification and page an operator to talk with them. The icon is smart enough to know when there are operators able to assist the user, and display the appropriate status - such as "Click now for a live operator." or "Our operators are currently not available." (note that the users are then able to send a direct message to the operator for when they return). Once a live channel of communication is opened, you can text based chat with your users in a somewhat chat room, but more personalized and one on one environment. As you talk, the profile can be modified with personalizing information such as the users real name, and a transcript of the conversation is made. All of this is stored in that users profile, so that when the user returns, you have complete information and history of the user instantly available to you. Not only that, but the operator console allows you to go back to review your history of all conversations made based by web site, date and user. You also have the ability to enable or disable conversation encryption at will for privacy and security purposes.

Opening this communication channel has numerous powerful applications such as live customer service, technical support, online topic advice, sales and marketing, and the list goes on. Example, you are an online reseller of computer hardware. You as the operator can create a channel of communication with any of the users browsing your online product catalogue, you see they have spent much time looking through your server hardware section, and ask if they have any questions or comments about your server product range - opening a dialogue that could possibly end in a sale of your products, or at least expedite the process. This is because the user has, 1. Become better informed of your product through being able to ask the questions that are relevant to their situation; 2. Had a customer service experience that will be above and beyond their typical experience and 3. Removes redundancy in future communications as the operator can refer to user profile and information already gathered, avoiding customer frustration. Add to that, the ability to push content to them such as automated messages, referral to web pages, or even files and you have an amazing opportunity to really add value to your customers experience. And say for example you answer the call, but there is another person in your department or company more qualified to answer the customers questions? Not a problem, just like a phone exchange, you can transfer users seamlessly between operators in your company! An additional feature which can be purchased with Groopz is called LeadScan. The technology actively monitors and compares user characteristics and site usage patterns to rules and criteria you assign. LeadScan then alerts operators visually and audibly to the presence of users matching these rules, greatly simplifying the process of finding more "high potential customers".

The software its self, both on the server and client side is a snap to install. We advise installation of the product version that contains a JRE (Java Runtime Environment) to simply the installation process. Both components were installed within a small number of clicks, with almost no problems. Our only issue was in that the server component by default has a built in web server, defeating other web servers that may be running on the server. Once this was disabled, no further issues arouse. Installation, to configuration, to operation can easily be accomplished within hours. We were blown away by how fast we could have such a powerful tool at our disposal, ready and operating with so little effort or complicated installation procedure. Customization is quite easy for branding and environment consistency of things like colours, graphics and icons between the web pages and the Groopz environment.

Once the software is installed, all that is left is a simple matter of modifying your HTML pages with a few lines of code (provided on templates and thoroughly outlined in the accompanying detailed documentation) and editing the accompanying JavaScript file that helps the java applet find the server paths, and allows customization of the Groopz environment for your users. After everything is up and functional, it is very polite with the system resources. The minimum hardware specifications couldn't be any easier to meet (233 MHz Pentium processor, 64MB RAM - we would truly hope your server has at least those specs by now!). Utilization of server resources is negligible. Plus it is fault tolerant and scalable across multiple physical servers for large scale implementations.

Pricing as configured in our review (including the LeadScan technology) starts at $3,495 per operator seat, plus 25% total cost annually for a service package that encompasses full technical support and software upgrades (which the server can be configured to do automatically). A hosted version of the service is also available from Digi-Net starting at $199 monthly with a 25% overall cost additional startup fee. Discount pricing is available for educational, non-profit and government customers.

Groopz 2.0 will stun you with its diversity of features and usability, while leaving you with lots of time to try them out after its quick and painless installation. For more information on this product, pricing, requirements or features the people at Digi-Net would be more than happy to assist you. Our past and current dealings with Digi-Net have proved to be excellent in customer service, answering all of your sales and technical questions.

About The Author
Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.


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