Instant service Featured

9:41am EDT July 22, 2002

We’ve all been through the process: Buy the product, send in the rebate materials and wait. Sometimes you wait so long you’ve forgotten what the check is for when it finally arrives.

The demand for efficiency and speed by consumers has pushed rebates and other post-sale services to the Internet, and How2.com has found a way to serve both consumers and manufacturers as a sort of go-between.

“Our focus is post-purchase customer care,” says Ken Johnsen, How2.com president. “Retailers can offer a rebate, and with our services, the end-user can check the status and get an e-mail confirmation back. It helps the end-user understand what’s happening.”

Consumers often got so frustrated with the rebate process that they went back to the store, where the rebate was issued out of the cash register to keep them happy, costing the company money.

In the old economy, a manufacturer offered a rebate on a product for a set length of time. A third party collected the rebate offers sent in and waited until the promotion was over. That company then aggregated the checks, got payment from the company offering the rebate, and mailed out rebate payments. This could take six to 12 weeks, especially if someone bought the product early in the promotion.

Now, How2.com works with manufacturers to try to get checks cut every week, dramatically cutting the turnaround time and enhancing the value of the rebate offer. Much of the process has been moved to the Web, including filling out forms and other necessary information. Manufacturers can use this opportunity to sell other products by offering special deals, such as trading the $50 rebate for a $60 gift certificate for additional items.

Small businesses can take advantage of these services as well. How2.com will coordinate a rebate program, taking care of all the applications and processing. The business is charged on a per-rebate basis.

How2.com is also putting manuals for products online to complement its rebate offerings.

“These will not be static manuals,” says Johnsen. “We will be filming video of the products so you can see how to install it. Instead of trying to pick the installation off a piece of paper, we will make the manuals come alive.”

The plan is for consumers to come to the site, fill out and submit rebate forms, then view a multimedia presentation on how to install or program their new product.

How to reach: www.how2.com

Todd Shryock (tshryock@sbnnet.com) is SBN’s special reports editor.