As the contact center grows increasingly important to the enterprise, PeopleSoft is aggressively entering the field with PeopleSoft Support, a full-bodied application — based on acquired technology — that can be rolled into PeopleSoft 8.
“PeopleSoft is going at the contact center mostlythrough what it bought with Vantive, a lot of whichhas been retooled,” Mark Peacock, an analyst withDeloitte Consulting, told CRM Buyer Magazine.
Brad Wilson, vice president of product marketing forCRM at PeopleSoft, told CRM Buyer that Vantive had “terrificcontact center technology and expertise” in areas suchas case management and trouble ticketing, which has been transferred onto the PeopleSoft 8 architecture.
The application is intended not only togive a company the much-coveted 360-degree view of thecustomer, but also to provide the customer with a 360-degreeview of the company, said Wilson.
But Andrew Kass, a senior vice president ofdevelopment for CRM at Oracle, told CRM Buyer that because SAPand PeopleSoft provide the pieces of CRM throughseparate companies, they appear to view CRM as aseparate entity rather than as an integrated part of anenterprise’s business processes.
On the other hand, Oracle focuses on creating a single data model for allprocesses, he said.
Turn and Face the Changes
Wilson pointed out that much of PeopleSoft’s efforts havebeen fueled by rapidly changing expectations for acontact center. The enterprise “wants to allowcustomers to get access 24/7,” he said. It also wantscustomer service reps to make snap decisions as to howto best handle the individual customer.
No longer seen merely as a profit center, as JohnRagsdale, an analyst with the Giga Information Group,told CRM Buyer, the contact center has become animportant touchstone — representing, perhaps, the onlydirect path — to the customer.
“The advent of the CRM messages around ‘attract, retainand serve customers’ has given more visibility to callcenters and technical support,” he said. “Customerservice agents are often the single interface betweena company and its customers. More companies arerecognizing that excellent customer service not onlyhelps retain customers — it can help attract them, too.”
Reach Out and Touch
“Vice presidents, CIOs [and other executives] used toview the call center as a necessary evil,” saidWilson. “But in the past few years, service on those100 million touches with customers has been seen as away to either do something [positive] with thecustomer or to bungle the relationship.”
Increasingly, those companies are turning to vendorslike PeopleSoft for thetools that will help their customer service representativesaccomplish the former and avoid the latter.
They are seeking self-service tools andknowledge-based systems. And they want to implementcontact center technology quickly.
According to Wilson, PeopleSoft can get a call centerup and running within 35 days or so, as it recentlydid with one customer — “and it wasn’t just a callcenter,” he explained. It offered customers “self-service features” and technology to deal withmore complex queries.
The Right Tools
Because the contact center represents “an extremelyimportant way for a business to build and maintain arelationship with customers,” CSRs must be armed withenough knowledge of customers that they can make snapdecisions as to whether to cross-sell, up-sell orsimply service the customer, Wilson said.
PeopleSoft has put considerable effort into infusingits contact center offering with knowledge managementcapabilities. Reps can get “some notion of thecustomer’s background and how angry or happy theyare” before offering answers to their queries, saidWilson.
Using embedded analytics, PeopleSoft’s offering processes data”in real-time and historically, and presents[results] in the course of an agent’s interaction withthe customer,” said Wilson.
Oracle, too, is putting a great deal of stock into itsanalytics and intelligence these days in an effort to reacha wider audience, said Andrew Kass, a senior vice presidentof development in CRM at Oracle.
Serving Two Fronts
PeopleSoft has aimed its technology at both thecontact center that suffers high turnover and thecenter that is home to long-term employees with adecade or more of experience.
Some industries are also looking for ways to make thecall center rep’s job easier, thereby providing higherlevels of customer satisfaction and reducing churn among center employees.
At centers withhigh turnover, “the challenge is to make call centertechnology easier,” said Wilson. For that, PeopleSofttouts its intuitive interface and the building ofguidance into the application — rather than a manual.
Ragsdale noted that in the quest to answer thechanging needs of the contact center, “vendors aremaking it easier to create different UIs (user interfaces) for differentuser categories, so the application becomes optimizedfor whatever responsibilities the employee may have.”
While competitors like Siebel and Pivotal also preachback office integration, as do enterprise CRM vendors like Oracle, Wilson believes that PeopleSoft hasmore experience actually making integration a reality,particularly since the company offering isbuilt on a pure Internet architecture.
“We offer complete front-office to back-office integration thata lot of CRM vendors talk about,” he said.
Oracle’s Kass told CRM Buyer that vendors like PeopleSoftand Siebel “require [experts] with very specialskillsets” to implement and integrate theirapplications.
Siebel, E.piphany and Kana are still strongcompetitors of PeopleSoft, according to Sheryl Kingstone, ananalyst with the Yankee Group. She told CRM Buyer that others, however, such as Clarify, have dropped off the radar screen, which she said “used to be a strong contender.”
The Right Price
PeopleSoft has avoided “just selling seats” for itsmodules, opting instead for what Wilson called”value-based pricing.” Prices are based on a numberof metrics, including company size and number ofemployees.
PeopleSoft is hoping to attract enterprises that willview it as a company that they can “take a risk on,” allowing ample room for future growth, said Wilson. According to Kingstone,”PeopleSoft is leveraging its installed base with acomplete solution from the front office to the back office.”