Ask Jeeves is an example of a company that has made a successful transition from a business-to-consumer (B2C) company to a business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) company.
Ask Jeeves began as a consumer search engine in 1997. It soon craved out a niche in the search engine market by offering Web surfers a way to search the Net using natural language queries. Consumers didn't have to provide keywords or Boolean search strings. Consumers just entered a natural language question like "Where can I find Nike shoes?" and Jeevesthe cartoon mascotsearched the Net finding Web sites that had the answer.
The Jeeves underlying database incorporates an artificial intelligence technology and tags the question and answer for faster response with similar questions in the future. Ask Jeeves combines a unique natural language engine with a proprietary knowledge base. Taken together, this mechanism processes the meaning and grammar of real questions in plain English; links directly to relevant, high-quality answers; and gets smarter over time, as its knowledge base expands with each question asked and each answer delivered.
By the time the first year of operations was over, Jeeves had answered millions of questions and was one smart fellow. This is when management realized that Jeeves could help improve customer interaction at other Web sites. Ask Jeeves has converted its core business from B2C to B2B2C, helping companies like Chrysler provide better responses to their online customer inquiries by customizing their search technology. Ask Jeeves charges monthly licensing fees based on the number of consumer queries answered that adds to the revenue stream it gets from its two Web sites.