Sugar's Expanding Knowledge Base Is Sweet
SugarCRM has taken steps to flesh out the Professional and Enterprise versions of its open source CRM software, adding support for customer self-service and a knowledge base for internal use to manage structured and unstructured information. The Customer Self-Service Portal allows organizations to add an outward-facing component, giving customers a self-service channel that allows direct access to the core CRM system. This enables customers to carry out tasks such as logging and tracking problems and related case information, updating accounts, registering contact information, and managing subscriptions.
It also supports a search function and can be used to expose FAQs written and managed within SugarCRM. The portal is delivered as an installable piece of software that acts as a gateway between the customer-facing Web site and the internal CRM system. It encrypts information at the data level and authenticates it against the SugarCRM database. "CRM is moving beyond the four walls of the enterprise," said John Roberts, CEO of SugarCRM, in a written statement. "Customer Self-Service Portal and Knowledgebase from SugarCRM give companies the ability to expose key elements of their CRM to customers to serve them more effectively and at a lower cost."
The Sugar Knowledgebase is designed to allow organizations to share information internally, helping customer support and engineering teams manage and share structured and unstructured information. It covers functions such as searchable content authoring and management, the creation and management of FAQs, and searching and rating content for Web 2.0 style, user ratings, full text search, and workflow approvals.
The portal has been designed to enable non-technical users to create and deploy Web-to-lead forms, while making the user experience intuitive from the customer side. The Knowledgebase sports a Wikilike user interface for managing simple, nontechnical content, including posting, linking, editing, and deleting content. Sugar Knowledgebase is included within the subscription fees of Sugar Professional and Sugar Enterprise. The price for Sugar Customer Self-Service Portal varies according to the number of users.
One of the criticisms of open source CRM has been that it lacks the functionality of traditional, established CRM suites, according to Datamonitor's ComputerWire Web site. However, SugarCRM is making steady progress while also trying to stay on the right side of the line in terms of offering relevant functionality without overburdening the application. At the moment its development parallels that of Salesforce.com, according to Datamonitor: both offer applications, platforms, and application exchanges to encourage an ecosystem of partners and customers. Increasingly, the main differentiator between them is the open source versus proprietary approach.
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