December 5, 1996
Web posted at: 4:45 p.m. EST
From San Francisco Bureau
Chief Greg Lefevre
SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) --
Behind every question lies an
answer. At the Xerox Corp.
World Wide Web site, the
answer is Bill McClain, a Web-savvy 63-year-old who
some 200 feedback responses a day.
"If anybody takes the time to send a message to the
Corporation, we feel we owe them the courtesy of a
McClain's job is to answer any and all e-mail
inquiries that come in
to Xerox. What started as a basic customer relations
job has now
taken on almost mythical proportions, as McClain
answers like a Xerox copier does paper. And in the
the Internet, word is out that if you can't find an
"Every day is totally different. I don't know what to
McClain, whose silver hair and gentlemanly ways don't
stereotype for wired folks.
"We give preference to Xerox (questions), but we'll
anything that we can."
The questions pour in from all angles.
"Somebody said, 'I urgently need the Boy Scout lyrics
to the song
'Kumbaya.' We got him the Boy Scout lyrics, the
regular lyrics and
the URL of the Boy Scout songbook."
Other inquiries that have made it into McClain's hall
of fame: What
is the best route from South Bend, Indiana, to the
Miami? Where are the Spice Islands? Got any info on
Narrows Bridge disaster?
Charles Jo, who put in a request for Silicon Valley
couldn't believe it when he had his answer in less
than 24 hours.
"I was just amazed," he said.
As for being an elder of the Web, McClain says he
doesn't mind --
with age comes wisdom.
"If somebody asked me how did people make copies
Xerox invented the Xerox machine, I could tell them
used to have to do that," he said.
Other companies slow to respond
As for other top Fortune 500 companies, many don't
have a place
for customers to voice questions or concerns. And of
companies that do, trying to get an answer is another
CNN contacted a dozen companies; only four responded.
those, IBM, Kraft and Wal-Mart responded in less than
Why should companies respond?
Because customer satisfaction may depend on it, says
Pontin, managing editor of Red Herring, a
technology trade publication.
"(Companies) have to treat it as seriously as they
treat a customer
phone call," he said.