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Siebel Introduces On-Demand CRM/Call-Center Combo

The offering appears to be a competitive response to CRM rival Salesforce.com, which last fall introduced Supportforce.

Siebel Systems Inc. says its release Tuesday of the latest version of its on-demand customer-relationship-management product, Siebel CRM OnDemand, features the option to include complete call-center capabilities as part of the bundle. The call-center technology comes from its acquisition of Ineto Services Inc. in January 2004.

The offering appears to be a competitive response to CRM rival Salesforce.com Inc., which last fall introduced Supportforce, an on-demand call-center offering that relies on a short list of telecommunications partners to deliver contact-center capabilities in its core CRM platform.

Regarding the combination of CRM and call-center capabilities, "our strategy is to provide all of this out the door," Bruce Cleveland, senior VP and general manager of Siebel's OnDemand and small-business units, said during a press call Tuesday. "Our key competitor's strategy is to outsource this to third-party providers."

Siebel OnDemand release 7 features built-in support for PBX, interactive voice-response, voice-over-IP, and computer-telephony integration systems, as well as real-time contact-center analytics capabilities. Establishing an integrated CRM and call-center environment normally requires an investment of at least $1 million and six months of integration work, said Mike Betzer, former CEO of Ineto and now a Siebel VP. "Customers are tired of trying to buy multiple point solutions and having to integrate them later," Betzer said.

A bundle of Siebel CRM OnDemand and CRM Contact OnDemand starts at $150 a month per user, not including additional usage-based telephone charges. Customers also can bundle Contact OnDemand with any of the vertical-market versions of Siebel CRM OnDemand.

Siebel had some of its customers on hand during the conference call to provide testimonials on its new offering. Ingersoll-Rand Co., a $9 billion-a-year maker of industrial equipment, recently deployed the Siebel Contact OnDemand bundle in less than three days after a product launch resulted in unanticipated call-center volume of 6,000 calls per day, or 50 times normal volume. Because of the flexibility of the Siebel offering, the company will expand its 260-user, eight-site deployment to more than 600 users at 20 sites, senior project manager Chris Norman said.

Siebel customer Product Partners, a $120 million-a-year maker of in-home fitness and weight-loss products that depends heavily on infomercials for sales, has replaced its customer-service outsourcing arrangement with Siebel Contact OnDemand and has benefited from better cost controls, more control over its call-center operations, and improved insight because of the reporting capabilities of the product. The company's call-center volume fluctuates wildly based on how much it's spending--and succeeding--with a given campaign, resulting in a seasonal call-center staff that ranges from less than 50 to more than 100, president Jon Congdon said.

Because Siebel's new technology has enabled the company to adjust its usage based on expected volumes and to get much better analytical data about its handling of calls, Product Partners has been able to keep costs down when volumes dip and to turn its customer-service operation into a profit center, he said.

Siebel is well aware that Contact OnDemand is likely to be more attractive to smaller companies--many of which come looking for call-center applications before adopting CRM software. Cleveland said Siebel overall supports 2 million seats in the small- and midsize-business market, and about 10% of those are on-demand customers, a number he expects to grow.

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