eFederal joins the B2G race

A business-to-government procurement portal for credit card purchases, eFederal

Inc., announced its official launch today and aims to make a name for itself

in the market with customer service and support.

"We launched in under 90 days from incorporation to going live [on July

4]," said Mark Dowd, vice president of operations at the Washington, D.C.-based

company. "We built the site by listening to government procurement officers

and the people with credit cards, because they are not always one and the

same."

Government users can use SmartPay cards to purchase more than 100,000

different products on the eFederal site, including information technology

equipment, office supplies and office equipment. The site also features

procurement tools, such as online directories, market research, cost analyses,

government forms and templates, and news links.

The company makes money through the traditional reseller model, collecting

a percentage of the products it sells, Dowd said.

But eFederal wants to base its business on customer service and support.

"In one instance a user made a recommendation, and it was implemented on

the site five minutes later," Dowd said. "We want to build our reputation

on customer service and support, and that means not just talk but action

because a lot of times customers don't see the follow-through from companies."

As part of its customer support mantra, eFederal (www.efederal.com)

has made its site free for users without making them register. The downside

of that decision is that the competition can mimic what it's doing, but

establishing trust with purchasers outweighed potential losses to other

companies, Dowd said.

But Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government

Procurement, said eFederal is just the latest in a throng of companies trying

to get into a hot market.

"This is one more entry in the e-commerce federal marketplace, and I

think right now there are a number of different systems out there, and it's

up to the customers to see which ones survive," Allen said. "There's nothing

any better or worse about [eFederal], but we've seen at least a half dozen

of these companies recently and only time will tell who survives."

Allen warned that despite the flexibility government purchasers are

given for smaller, credit card buys, eFederal and its competitors must follow

competition and fairness rules.

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