Quixi: The Personal Human Assistant

NEW ORLEANS (03/01/2000) - Are you tired of automated customer support, shopping robots, and voice-enabled services? The Wireless 2000 show here this week sees the debut of Quixi Connect, which is intended to restore the human touch to services by phone.

Quixi Connect offers around-the-clock help from an actual human being. You can contact the service by phone, fax, or e-mail, but you interact with a person who will give you shopping information, directions, and a telephone connection to anyone in your Quixi address book.

Instead of relying on computer automation, the wireless service provider is pinning its success on an army of customer service representatives.

The company (also called Quixi) targets its service to mobile phone users. A subscription will cost $20 per month when Quixi Connect launches in mid-year, but you can try it for free until then. One catch: Calling Quixi in Riverside, California may be a toll connection; but as company representatives point out, many mobile phone users have free long-distance calling plans.

Personal Human Assistant

You can set up a Quixi account by telephone or via its Web site. The Quixi home page offers downloadable software you can use to synchronize common address books such as Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, and 3Com's Palm.

After you've uploaded your contacts to your account on Quixi's Web site, the service can connect you to any of them. Just call Quixi and ask for one of your contacts, and the Quixi agent completes the call: You pay for the call to Quixi only.

Quixi's pitch is that you can configure your mobile phone to speed-dial its service and connect easily to anyone in your address book. You can update Quixi's copy of your address book information online, or you can configure it to sync automatically with your PC.

A second tier of services called Quixi Find will e-mail or fax directions you request over the phone. It also offers movie times and locations, and recommends restaurants. You simply call Quixi, and a representative tells you what is playing at the local theater, or where to find the closest five-star Chinese restaurant.

Quixi plans to add a complimentary service that provides real-time telephone directions. You can query Quixi Find by phone, fax, e-mail, or through a real-time chat option on its Web site.

A third tier of services, Quixi Shop, provides comparison shopping at online and offline merchants at your request. A customer service representative will find the best price for items you seek. Quixi Shop notifies you of its finds, and will purchase the item and arrange shipping on your request. If you have a dispute with a merchant, Quixi representatives will work to resolve the conflict "within reason," the company says.

Quixi founders Robert Pines and Evan Marwell call their service the "world's first personal bandwidth company."

"People don't want to talk to machines," Pines says. "They want to talk to people who understand what they're saying and their specific needs."

Quixi will also collect fees and dues from online and offline merchant partners.

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