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Salesforce.com Inc. took the next step in its evolution Wednesday, introducing a new site, Supportforce.com, that's designed to provide on-demand call-center and customer-service software along the lines of its fast-growing sales-force-automation offering. The move is thought to be a competitive shot at rival Siebel Systems Inc., which will hold its annual user conference next week in Los Angeles. "It's a direct hit against Siebel-on-demand," Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone says.
The launch of Supportforce addresses what Kingstone says has been a weakness in Salesforce's offering--namely, a robust customer-service and -support component that integrates with computer telephony systems. Kingstone says it will make Salesforce a more viable option for customers considering an on-demand customer-service model when previously they'd have focused their attention on Siebel Systems and RightNow Technologies Inc., which also hosts a user conference next week.
In addition to companies that still lack a call-center operation, on-demand customer-service offerings are increasingly popular with larger companies looking to roll out call centers for specific business units, or those that are building distributed call-center environments in which agents often work at home and thus are more effectively served by Web-based tools. "That's where this functionality shines," Kingstone says.
Supportforce's offering figures to be especially attractive to Salesforce's growing customer base, which previously would have had to look elsewhere for on-demand customer support but now can get the capability at no additional cost, as access to the capabilities of Supportforce is included in Salesforce subscriptions. In particular, Supportforce's ability to integrate with computer telephony infrastructures for enabling things such as rule-based call routing and pop-up agent prompts makes it a competitive offering out of the gate. To make the telephony integration possible, Salesforce is bringing Supportforce to market with the help of several telecommunications partners--Alcatel, Aspect Communications, Avaya, Cisco Systems, and Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories.
Pricing for the Salesforce suite is $65 a month per user for the professional edition and $125 a month per user for the enterprise edition.