SalesLogix and Salesforce.com Expand Their Customer Service Offerings

Two leading midmarket CRM vendors released expansions of their platforms this week, branching further into the service side of CRM. Today Salesforce.com unveils Supportforce.com, its on-demand customer support offering, news that comes on the heels of SalesLogix' Customer Service, part of the 6.2 release from the SalesLogix division of Best Software that was first announced in August. But, according to Sheryl Kingstone, program manager for CRM strategies at The Yankee Group, the similarities end there. "These are very different announcements," she says. "They're both targeting customer service, but Salesforce is targeting the call center, as compared to focusing on premise-based trouble tickets." SalesLogix, she says, is building up its capabilities in the service management arena, while Salesforce.com is looking specifically at computer telephony integration (CTI). Kingstone adds that Supportforce "has basic service ticketing capability and a knowledge Web portal, too." The Supportforce announcement, she says, shows that Salesforce is "focusing on partnerships and [on] multichannel interactions." Salesforce.com executives were not available for comment. By contrast some of the features in the SalesLogix Customer Service (SCS) module of SalesLogix 6.2 aren't entirely new, Kingstone says. "It's not like they haven't had a knowledge base before," she says, adding that the service capability "has been there--but a lot of companies don't use that functionality. It hasn't been visible." With the new release, SalesLogix has "beefed up" the service side of its suite, she says, mainly through improved reporting, better integration, and embedded workflow for ticket management. According to Chris Reich, director of product management for SalesLogix, it's the package itself that's new. "While some of the pieces have been there, we've focused on bringing together the whole offering...tying it to sales, tying it to marketing." SCS, he says, is for more than just the contact center. "We're targeting anyone who's taking customer calls," he says. "We're not focused on...ticket management in any kind of strict terms. Where some support offerings are tailored to a customer service rep or a structured organization, we're really letting any [customer-facing employee] get the data in and get it assigned to the correct person." Comparing SCS and Supportforce, Kingstone says that companies "could evaluate both if they wanted to," but that Supportforce is more attuned to those companies specifically looking for a multichannel CTI. With that audience in mind, Salesforce says that companies deploying Supportforce will have little trouble integrating it with their existing contact center or help desk infrastructure, thanks in part to agreements Salesforce has made with several of the contact center industry's top infrastructure providers--Alcatel (and its subsidiary Genesys), Aspect Communications, Avaya, and Cisco Systems. Denis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research Group, says the partnerships are more than mere window dressing. "This isn't an application that sits around by itself--there are integration issues up and down the ladder. Offering prebuilt or semiprebuilt integration with the hardware, as well as IP phone service are big positives." Salesforce.com, Pombriant says, "is trying to solve the problem of supporting CSRs literally where they live, to enable companies to recruit and use the best talent wherever they find it." Kingstone says Salesforce.com is "heading more into the RightNow space," referring to hosted service vendor RightNow Technologies. "What RightNow has today is a very strong Web self-service component and an e-service functionality. Salesforce still has to build out a lot of that knowledge management underlay--but they'll get there." For his part, RightNow Founder and CEO Greg Gianforte tells CRM magazine that he's not terribly troubled by the incursion. "We've been serving our clients for seven years in the support area," he says. "We continue to invest in broadening the footprint of our product based on what our clients tell us their requirements are.... Any one particular announcement isn't going to change that," he says. In fact, Gianforte says he welcomes the competition: "Options for customers are good." Related articles:
The Siren Call of the Midmarket Why serving midsize companies is all the rage among CRM vendors. SalesLogix Unveils Version 6.2 Best Software's midmarket CRM suite adds enhanced customer service and customization capabilities.
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