CRM vendors pitch data consolidation

Software vendors are banking on customer data integration (CDI) tools to boost sales of CRM systems.

Toronto-based ACIS Consulting Inc. recently launched RapidAnswer, a search derivative application that integrates information across multiple channels — such as e-mail, corporate documents and Web sites — into a single source.

RapidAnswer, developed by Oslo, Norway-based Fast Search & Transfer (FAST), centralizes multiple files from disparate systems. It extracts the latest data from multiple sources and indexes content for instant search and retrieval.

Customer support reps may not find all the information they need in a single location and this can often be a challenge, said ACIS president Efrem Habteselassie. He said RapidAnswer resolves the problem by consolidating information on a single “dashboard” that is accessible to customer support reps as they interact with clients.

The application, he said, identifies the most frequent caller questions and generates a knowledge base to deliver instant answers to the most common subjects. It enables agents to focus more on “high value” calls for better quality customer service.

Information consolidation is also the value-proposition of another recently launched application — CRM OnDemand by San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel Systems Inc. According to Siebel, the product is the first hosted contact centre solution on the market.

Edsel Shreve, regional manager for Siebel Systems Canada Inc., said the application’s cost-effectiveness is its greatest strength. As a hosted application, it eliminates the need for costly contact centre infrastructure, making it a strategic alternative for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), he said.

With CRM OnDemand, Shreve said, contact centres need not be in a single location. The application would automatically route the calls to the right place.

As its answer to data integration, CRM OnDemand captures real-time interaction from multiple channels into a single database.

This provides a 360-degree view of customer communications across voice, e-mail, and Web channels. A survey conducted by Burlingame, Calif.-based The CDI Institute showed 68 per cent of businesses worldwide are actively evaluating CDI solutions.

North American enterprises expect to spend over US$1.2 billion on CDI solutions this year, the report said.

It found that between 2003 and 2004 alone, IT spending on CDI solutions was up more than 135 per cent.

According to the report, the top five CDI applications are: DWL Customer, Initiate Identity Hub, Oracle Customer Data Hub, Siebel Universal Customer Master, and Siperian Master Reference Manager.

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