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TECHNOLOGY–HNC Subsidiary Launches New Search Engine



E-Tool Could Help E-Firms Cut Customer Costs

San Diego-based eHNC kicks off a campaign Monday to enter the competitive search engine market.

EHNC’s new sophisticated search tool, called QUAAN, is expected to help companies improve their customer service, trim costs and boost revenues.

QUAAN, which means “interconnect” in Chinese, takes a company’s database and organizes it so customers can access answers quickly and easily.

QUAAN is different from other search engines such as Yahoo! and Alta Vista because it is tailored for individual corporate sites as opposed to scanning the entire Web.

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“It allows customers to type in natural questions,” said Jon Higby, director of corporate development for eHNC, a leading applications service provider of E-commerce services.

Higby said QUAAN will not only save companies money, but it will also reduce customer dissatisfaction by finding them answers quickly.

“A lot of companies will use it to reduce their customer support costs,” he said.

Higby explained a lot of Internet users send customer support E-mails, which can be very expensive for Internet businesses because they have to pay a support staff to answer questions.

He pointed to a study by New York-based Internet commerce research firm Jupiter Communications that reveals 36 percent of E-mails sent to customer support centers are never answered.

Important For E-Business

“I think it will become more and more important for E-businesses to want this technology,” Higby said. “Internet usage is obviously going up. With the increase, you’re getting people who are less knowledgeable. They don’t understand how to do key word searches. Also, a lot of key word searches are ineffective.”

As the Internet grows, Higby said, it will become increasingly more important for E-commerce companies to have interfaces that allow their customers to access information easily.

Mike Comiskey, senior analyst for Boston-based E-business consulting and strategy firm Extraprise Advisers, agrees.

“The whole idea is to produce a more satisfying experience, and the way to do that is to do it more intelligently,” he said. “What eHNC is doing is trying to make it more intelligent, helping the user out with a more focused search.”

QUAAN is based on patented neuro-network technology developed by San Diego-based HNC Software, eHNC’s parent company. HNC’s core technology allows any kind of information to be categorized.

Already Tested

Some of eHNC’s customers, such as Excite, eBay and Dell Computer, have already successfully tested the QUAAN search tool.

“That should give us good momentum to go after the whole market,” Higby said.

He said eHNC is poised to go head-to-head with its largest competitor, Ask Jeeves, Inc., creator of an online “butler” who answers questions by searching the ‘Net for the user.

Like its competition, eHNC plans to spend some serious cash on promoting its search tool.

EHNC has launched a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, which includes online and print advertisements, such as full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal.

EHNC officials did not disclose the exact amount being spent on the campaign.

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