Hosted CRM evangelist Salesforce.com has launched a new branding campaign, setting up the Supportforce.com website and announcing a batch of partnerships with top call centre infrastructure suppliers.
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Supportforce highlights Salesforce's existing call centre integration and features. The campaign's biggest product advancement is Salesforce's Telephony API toolkit, which allows its sales automation software to integrate with products from partners including Avaya, Cisco, Alcatel, Aspect and Genesys.
The goal is to enable customers to connect software for autodialling, call routing and other functions with Salesforce's repository of customer contact and history information.
Marty Howard, chief information officer at Patient Care, selected Salesforce to centralise a call centre to field customer calls from 25 branches. Howard said he considered customer relationship management systems from Siebel, Microsoft and Onyx before going with Salesforce because of the low capital investment required. He then picked hosted call centre White Pajama and data integrator Above All Software, both Salesforce partners, to round out the system.
"It turns out we were a Supportforce customer before I knew what that was," Howard said. He's pleased with how well the system is working. "I'm very happy, and it's unusual for me to be very happy with a supplier."
Howard said he was spending less on the hosted software's monthly subscription costs than he would have on the maintenance alone for a traditional, on-premise system.
He's also spending less on administration. Patient Care has around 180 users on its Salesforce-based system and spends under four IT hours a week working on the system. By contrast, the organisation spends 55 IT hours weekly maintaining home-grown operations software supporting a similar number of users.
Supportforce is included in Salesforce's core product suite, which starts at $65 (£34) per user, per month.
Even though Salesforce and Supportforce share a licensing fee, they will develop as two distinct applications, according to Salesforce chairman and chief executive officer Marc Benioff. "It has the roots of Salesforce.com, but it's a whole different type of layout for the customer," he said.
Salesforce's strategy is to continue selling per-user licences for access to all its functionality, but to steadily add new offerings to the core product to expand its user base. Benioff said Supportforce grew out of Salesforce users extending the platform to integrate their call-centre operations.
"We let our customers work it out," he said. "When we get to the point where we feel like it's a major initiative, we break it out. Supportforce.com now has its own brand and a bigger team here at the company supporting it."
Benioff said Salesforce would continue expanding Supportforce's customer-service features for handling functions such as case, ticket and e-mail management and service agent desktops. His goal is to compete with SAP, PeopleSoft and Siebel.
Stacy Cowley writes for IDG News Service