Primus Answer Engine – Online Self-Service Tool

Primus has hung its CRM hat on the concept that knowledge is the power behind customer service.

Coming from “a knowledge management perspective” that more “closely compares to a company like Kana” than a CRM traditionalist like Siebel, Primus puts a strong emphasis on Web interaction and self-service, AMR Research analyst Kevin Scott told CRM Buyer Magazine.

Better CRM?

Indeed, the company offers a variety of elements that complement CRM systems. One of those elements, the Primus Answer Engine, is designed to help customers find answers to their questions online. Because the engine is based on natural language processing (NLP), a user can ask a question in English. The engine’s structure increases the likelihood that the question will be understood and answered correctly, so the customer will not have to query a customer representative.

NLP also means that content authors are not required to have any specialized knowledge, according to Smith. It features a customizable user interface, flexible search capabilities, including support for unstructured data, and a versatile architecture that can accommodate an enterprise’s future growth.

Primus offers the Answer Engine through a license or as a hosted option. The company has designed the product to work with a variety of CRM applications and has taken the same tactic with its Primus eServer knowledge software. The company claims eServer produces faster ROI for CRM applications when it is used in conjunction with the Answer Engine.

Add-On Modules

Primus has developed several modules to enhance eServer. One such module iseSupport, which lets the enterprise customize eServer’s Web presentation interface to build a self-service solution. Another, Primus Interchange, draws information from the eServer knowledge base to answer customer e-mail automatically around the clock, whether or not a customer service representative is physically available.

The company’s Assisted Seeding links eServer to outside sources of data. Used in conjunction with the Primus Answer Engine, the module enables drag-and-drop authoring from various types of electronic files.

And an Attachment Management module helps customer reps record and organize files they have sent to customers.

Smith noted that the Primus product line is “solid” and said the company continues to make upgrades that make its offerings more appealing to the CRM market.

Forging Relationships

Paula Skartland, marketing manager at Primus, told CRM Buyer that the company has forged relationships with CRM vendors Siebel and Clarify. “We are the knowledge-enabling piece within call center and CRM centers,” she said. “You can launch Primus from Siebel [or other CRM applications] and it allows agents to access a knowledge base of information.”

Like other vendors with a knowledge management bent, Primus has found success at the IT help desk, where it has helped businesses deal with the age-old dilemma of how to support a growing number of IT queries without wasting precious IT resources on mundane or routine inquiries.

Beyond the Call Center

But the challenge for vendors like Primus “has been to show capabilities outside the technical support domain,” Karen Smith, research director of the CRM practice at Aberdeen Group, told CRM Buyer. According to Smith, Primus has aggressively met that challenge by designing products that make it easy to author and access content.

The company has set its sights squarely on contact centers and has hawked its products as complementary to CRM applications that are already on the market. At the call center level, Deloitte Consulting analyst Mark Peacock told CRM Buyer, the company eliminates the need for call center representatives “to flip through half a dozen systems to find information” to answer a customer query. Instead, those answers can be culled from existing corporate data and then produced in real-time.

Biggest Piece of Pie

Paul Rodwick, vice president of market development and strategy at E.piphany, told CRM Buyer that call centers in particular will “represent the largest piece of the CRM pie.” Therefore, he said he expects to see enterprises spend much of their CRM budgets to enhance their contact centers.

One company, Concord Communications, attributes its ability to maintain a 90 percent customer satisfaction rate, despite the addition of new and more complex products and a rapidly growing customer base, to its deployment of a Primus-augmented CRM solution.

“We take the same knowledge base and turn that around to create [a solution] for self-service,” said Skartland. “That’s when [the enterprise] sees a big payback on investment.”

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