The 2008 CRM Market Awards: Rising Stars -- Ribbit

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There’s a large push to try and make CRM life easier for employees on the road, trying to resolve customer issues, land sales contracts, and deliver effective marketing—all at once. Mountain View, Calif.–based Ribbit is taking a fresh look at how to move critical data into standard CRM applications.

Ribbit, which calls itself “Silicon Valley’s First Phone Company,” provides telephone carrier infrastructure, voice services, and the integration of voice with business applications. That last bit is the real innovation, says Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal at CRM consultancy Beagle Research Group. Ribbit offers an application programming interface (API) so developers can add a voice aspect to standard applications. “The importance of this is it enables more functionality to be projected out to the mobile worker and...adds much more to the cellphone as a user-input device,” Pombriant says. “Because of that, it changes user interface and makes applications less dependent—not independent—on keyboards for data input and retrieval, which is huge when you’re dealing with a small handheld device.”

While Ribbit provides tremendous opportunity for organizations to make voice an active part of the user interface, Pombriant believes the success rests squarely in the hands of the application developers. “If this is done well it can be revolutionary,” he says. “If it’s done poorly, it probably won’t amount to much.” He adds that there will be a learning curve to developing a quality voice interface but that “the tools are certainly in place to begin this process.”

The potential is clear in the flagship enterprise product, Ribbit for Salesforce, which links mobile voice communications and business workflow. By treating voice as a data object, Ribbit for Salesforce allows voice-enabled services including updating records by phone, the integration of voice and messages into workflow, and a Web-based clone of a user’s mobile phone in Salesforce.com.

Ribbit’s ties to Salesforce.com, “the market share leader in on-demand CRM,” will also help the rethinking of voice and CRM, Pombriant says. “Ribbit is an on-demand product, so this makes very good sense.” In fact, Ribbit’s got lots of people hopping: At press time, rumors continued to circulate that BT had already snapped up the company, for a reported $55 million.

[UPDATE: After this issue went to press, BT announced that it had acquired Ribbit for $105 million.]

To read about the rest of the 2008 Rising Stars, click here.

To read about the full 2008 CRM Market Awards, click here.

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