• April 1, 2008
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

The 2008 CRM Service Awards: Web Self-Service

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The Market It's an undeniable fact that consumers are turning to the Web to solve their problems. From prepurchase research to postpurchase service, the Web has become the preferred channel in customer empowerment. The disconnect, however, is such that consumers seeking an easier route through the Internet are finding it harder and harder to find the relevant answers hidden behind
too many solutions. "If you're not coming back to them with [just] one potential response, you're leaving it up to the consumer to decide what's the proper resolution," says Zachary McGeary, associate analyst at JupiterResearch. "This whole category hasn't really gotten the awareness that it should," says Sheryl Kingstone, director of enterprise research at the Yankee Group. "[The industry] needs to put pressure on these vendors to raise the benefits and the awareness of these solutions," she adds. While the technology to establish a robust Web self-service channel is readily available, maximizing the benefits of that software remains a challenge. "From a feature standpoint, there's not much differentiation amongst the vendors," McGeary says. Instead, the competition lies in a vendor's ability to educate its clients and tie the Web into the overall self-service channel. According to McGeary, "[It's become] more of an art than it is a science at this point." Click here for full-size image
One to Watch Much smaller than the rest of the players in this category, InQuira squeezed by eGain this year, gaining market recognition with its strong self-service offering; a vision toward delivering the right information at the right time; and a commitment to providing the best customer experience, Kingstone says. The company's best lessons came from interacting with its consumers: McGeary observes that the firm has been very innovative in terms of leveraging that knowledge and building its applications accordingly. InQuira explores innovative ways to efficiently and effectively resolve consumer problems. Case in point: Its Language Analysis product analyzes each word and its relationship with other words to uncover a consumer's desired context, conditions, and concepts. The Leaders Kana continues to hold onto its position as a leader in this space for the second year in a row. The company has always been a "technologist and visionary," says Esteban Kolsky, who was a senior research director at Gartner during our research, but has since left that company. Strong technology, however, can only hold its position for so long, and with the lowest score in customer satisfaction out of the top three vendors, Kana needs to focus significantly more effort on its strategic offering. Thanks to the company's massive suite of solutions, Kingstone observes that the software is "not the easiest thing to deal with." After undergoing a rough couple of years, Kana needs to continue to assert its position -- but, overall, things are looking up. "They are doing a good job of telling a better story and having the technology behind it," Kolsky says. For the third straight year, Talisma continues to stake its claim as an industry leader. "They've got a lot of momentum," McGeary says. With a strong and established focus on its enterprise offering, Talisma continues to target small and midsize businesses without taking its eyes off the overall product. Instead, smaller editions merely provide limited functionality as opposed to being entirely separate entities. While Talisma continues to offer great functionality in Web self-service, the only way it can break out of the pack is to break down the walls of siloed solutions and begin to integrate all its Web channels to create an all-encompassing self-service solution. Partnerships with Autonomy (enhancing Talisma's Knowledgebase) and with Bucher & Suter (enabling integration with Cisco Intelligent Contact Management) may help. The Winner It became clear early in the game that RightNow Technologies was once again going to be this year's winner. In an industry where general functionality varies little, what RightNow does is achieve impeccable customer satisfaction. "RightNow makes it really easy," McGeary says. "They have enterprise and small businesses operating on the same platform. They really enable business users to get in and be able to maintain relevant content." And to McGeary, relevant content is the key to a successful self-service offering. As a hosted model, RightNow also has the privilege of working more closely with its clients, offering the ability to access company data, run reports, and benchmark performance. If a company is struggling, RightNow also offers a less-invasive solution via best practice white papers. Even as the largest vendor in the category, Kingstone still sees great potential for the company in an emerging market.
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