Not Bad for a Two-Year-Old: Verizon's Revamped E-Commerce Web Site Scores Big with Customers, Digital Arts Academy

NEW YORK - Just two years ago, almost to the day, Verizon opened for business at a new electronic storefront, www.verizon.com, a Web site engineered from the ground up as an e-commerce customer service channel where customers could shop and order online, anytime.

On its second birthday, the site is a rousing success, having logged sales of nearly a million discrete items, taken in nearly 5 million customer bill payments, saving the paper that would have been used on 140,000 paper bills, and creating and tracking hundreds of thousands of repair and service orders.

And to top it off, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences has named verizon.com as a finalist in the first annual Webby Business Awards in the telecommunications sector. The nominations, honoring Web sites that excel at achieving fundamental business goals such as increasing sales-lead generation or enhancing customer loyalty and retention, were announced Wednesday. The academy will name the winners on Nov. 18.

Of the Verizon site, the judges said, "It's hard to argue with success: In the midst of an extremely tough business climate, Verizon is one of the few giant telcos to show business growth -- and even profit, albeit a slim one. The company's Web site has clearly contributed to that growth by making it easier for customers to sign up for services and to view and pay their bills.

"Behind the scenes, these actions are fed into a streamlined order-processing and bill-management system that saves the company (and its customers) time, paper and money. This site works -- and works well."

Verzion's information technology team created the site over a 10-month period. The team blended the former Bell Atlantic and former GTE sites into a functional site containing 30,000 content pages and 10,000 transaction pages; steered by 50,000 business rules running 5 million lines of code; and interconnecting more than 200 billing, ordering and operating systems across the nation.

Today, as many as 90 percent of all orders placed online flow through the system and are activated automatically, meaning a customer can place an order at 3 a.m. for a service or calling feature and have the service on his or her line in just a few hours.

"It is testimony to the design team and the marketing visionaries that the verizon.com site has been nominated by the academy," said Bruce Gordon, president of Verizon's retail markets group. "From the start, we wanted something that engaged customers on a number of levels and gave them the kind of great shopping, buying, service and learning experience that occurs in effective non-electronic commerce settings.

"We needed to do it right if we wanted customers to engage us online, and we have succeeded," he said.

Verizon's marketing team has made it easier for customers to use the site and has encouraged them to do so. For example, non-registered customers have been pre-enrolled, and a user name and pass code is printed on their monthly bills. This enables these customers to log on to the site immediately and use the various tools to manage their accounts and services.

As a result, usage has soared, with bill-viewing and paying and online help the fastest-growing Web site tools. "E-commerce works; we've proven that," said Gordon.

Verizon Communications

A Fortune 10 company, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services, with approximately $67 billion in revenues and 221,000 employees. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with more than 139 million access line equivalents and 36 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is the third largest long-distance carrier for U.S. consumers, with nearly 16 million long-distance lines. The company is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. Verizon's international presence includes wireline and wireless communications operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.