Salesforce.com Tackles Outsourcing On Demand

SAN FRANCISCO — Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff is
hoping to do to call centers and help desks what he has accomplished in the
CRM space.

The San Francisco-based firm debuted a new on-demand
business model it calls Supportforce.com. The goal is to address the growing
number of companies that are outsourcing their customer service divisions.

“For more than five years, Salesforce.com has been executing on its
vision — what we call ‘The End of Software,'” Benioff said at the launch
event here. “With Supportforce.com, we are transforming contact centers and
help desks the same way that salesforce.com transformed sales force
automation.”

The concept of streamlining call centers is not new. Benioff’s
competitors Siebel , PeopleSoft and
SAP have been doing it for some time, as well as up and coming
firms like RightNow Technologies .

But Salesforce.com may have the momentum needed to pull off such an
endeavor. Some 80 percent of all companies will outsource at least one
function by 2005, according to a recent report by IT analyst firm META Group.
Benioff said his company currently serves more than 11,100 customers and
168,000 subscribers, but did not estimate how many more it might gain or
convert with Supportforce.com. In a statement, the company said it does not
expect to “generate incremental revenue from Supportforce.com during fiscal
2005.”

The new software suite picks up where Salesforce.com’s original model
started five years ago: basic automation software over the Web and adds in
its customer relationship software and key aspects of its “sforce”
developer’s tool kit for making Internet-based business apps. The new
platform is the first new release out of Salesforce.com since the company
went public this past June.

With Supportforce.com, Salesforce.com said it can let companies manage
and share customer service and support information whenever they need it
through call centers, contact centers, help desks, virtual at-home agents,
and other customer service operations.

The new platform relies heavily on partner support. Benioff has signed
up some of the largest ones he could find. Avaya , Cisco , Alcatel , Aspect and
Genesys (an Alcatel company) have all pledged support to help with the
hosting and delivery. The combined companies make up over 70 percent of the
global contact center marketplace.

In the software-as-service model, customers typically pay a flat monthly
subscription fee to use applications as much as they want; access is via a
Web interface. Their data resides in secure partitioned servers maintained
by the vendor.

Vendors provide software upgrades and enhancements at no extra charge,
freeing customers from having to maintain applications and servers.
Application service providers (ASPs), hosted applications, utility computing
and software on-demand all refer to variations of the model.

With Supportforce.com, the company said it offers a multi-channel Web
services interface with customer support and help desk functionality,
knowledge management capabilities, and Web self-service and performance
metrics so that companies can manage and share customer information.

On feature called “Custom Tabs” lets system administrators add in modules
to manage activities such as contact center staffing and control data access
between service, sales and other departments.

The new platform also addresses the trend toward using voice over the
Internet (VoIP) courtesy of its sforce Telephony API (STAPI) toolkit. The
addition allows for features like autodialing, rules-based routing,
screen-pops, and call scripting, which can help improve productivity.

Because outsourcing is often done overseas, Salesforce.com designed
its new platform to support 11 languages: Brazilian Portuguese, simplified
Chinese, traditional Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese,
Korean, Spanish and Swedish.

Pricing for the entire salesforce.com suite of products, including
Supportforce.com is $65 per-user-per-month for the Professional Edition and
$125 per-user-per-month for the Enterprise Edition.

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