ANALYSIS

Inside Kana’s Hosted CRM Push

Like a bevy of CRM software providers that have come before it, Kana this week pushed out the first phase of its hosted onDemand initiative for its iCARE suite of Service Resolution Management (SRM) solutions. The company’s onDemand project initially supportsKana’s Response Live application, is available as either a hosted or in-houseproduct, and offers both perpetual and subscription licensing.

H.A. Schade, vice president of products at Kana, said in an interview withCRM Buyer that SRM fits under the broad umbrella of CRM but is specificallytargeted toward the increasingly complex customer-service problems facingenterprises today. Rather than focusing on getting a customer off thephone as fast as possible, as traditional call-center offerings do, SRMworks to find answers for complicated problems, such as product failuresor how to fill out difficult forms, then helps call-center agents assistcustomers in getting to the source of the problem.

Help as Needed

The company’s first hosted application, Response Live, offers a comprehensive solution for managing high volumes of inbound e-mail and Web-form inquiries, especially complex ones. An example of a customer scenario involving a knotty problem is a home buyer who begins by browsing a banking Web site and generally interacting with the Web in a self-help manner — clicking around, looking for mortgage rates, using the mortgage calculator to determine down payments and terms.

But when the time comes to complete the online mortgage form, things can get confusing fast. If the customer needs help, Kana’s Response Live rescues him or her with a “help button.” When the customer has a question, clicking this button launches a text chat window that lets the customer interact with an agent in a call center. The agent can help the customer fill out the mortgage form, co-browse the Web site, highlight things the customer needs to know and even fill out the form if the customer wants him or her to do so.

More Modules Soon

Schade said that through arrangements with its partners, Kana plansto extend its hosted onDemand offering across its iCARE product line in thenear future. iCARE can be used by customers as either an external-facing orinternal-facing product, he added, and is built on Microsoft’s .NETarchitecture.

Pricing for the hosted version of iCARE will be based on a per-module menu and may varydepending on product functionality and sales channel.

How About Those CRM Giants?

However, Kana is not the biggest fish in the CRM pond to be working with .NET, and it may see increased competition as a result of SAP and Microsoft’s recently announced partnership.

Steve Trotta, a software analyst with Technology Business Research, told CRM Buyerthat to extend its reach into the growing CRM market, SAP needed to improve its interoperability with Microsoft Windows platforms. Through the agreement withMicrosoft, SAP has enabled more than 3 million Visual Basic developers tobuild on the NetWeaver platform instead of limiting itself to a muchsmaller pool of J2EE developers, who are predominantly found in theenterprise market.

Still, the CRM giant’s announcement doesn’t faze Kana’s Schade. “We see it asan endorsement of the Web-services approach,” he said. “Essentially,they’re working for a tighter integration of their own environments.”

Limited Short-Term Impact

Aberdeen Group’s vice president of supply-side research, Chris Selland,concurred that both SAP’s NetWeaver and Microsoft’s .NET are highly strategic platforms that need each other to be successful. However, he noted that in the short term, the impact of the recent partnership announcement is likely to be limited.

So, while the two software giants figure out how to work together, Kanaand other niche CRM players can rest easy — for now, at least.

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