Important Industry Announcements

By Geoffrey James

Salesforce.com has announced a product that supports call centers with voice, chat, email and in-person support. The product consolidates agents’ key information, such as case details, contract information, customer assets, solutions, opportunities and orders on a single screen. It also allows customers to self-close their own cases and agents to tap into the collective knowledge of previously closed cases. Another feature offers companies the ability to lower costs by directing customers to an online portal for answers to frequently asked questions.
Our take: We recommend caution in this area, not because of the technology itself but because of the potential negative impact on customer satisfaction. CRM vendors would like companies to believe customers prefer to find solutions to their problems on the Web or in FAQ files. In fact customers want their problems solved as quickly as possible and would prefer to speak with a knowledgeable human who can quickly help them. Companies that throw unwilling customers into automated support systems might save money but risk customer alienation.

Research In Motion has announced a new group communication functionality for MapQuest Find Me service on the BlackBerry 7520 wireless handheld operating on the Nextel National Network. The functionality lets users automatically find their location, access maps and directions and locate nearby points of interest including airports, hotels, restaurants, banks and ATMs. It also allows users to share their location with colleagues, friends and family members as well as view the location of other users who have opted to join their private networks. Users also can set up alerts that notify them when network members arrive or depart from a designated area.
Our take: Like all great technologies the potential benefits are enormous and so are the potential abuses. Obviously a sales rep lost in an unfamiliar city would love a quick and easy way to get directions. A micromanaging sales manager could use this same technology, however, to keep tabs on sales reps to the point that they’ll feel as if Big Brother is watching. Before bringing this technology in-house we recommend sales managers discuss it with sales reps and raise concerns about potential abuse.

Netsuite has announced a set of features that track multiple quotas and forecasts, as well as the associated commission plans. The new capabilities allow companies to measure sales teams using more than just gross metrics of total sales or total bookings. For example, many companies would like to have one quota for product sales and another for service sales. Companies that offer an ongoing subscription service might wish to reward their sales force based on the revenue recognized from a single-year contract as well as the total value of the booked order. This product allows this kind of compensation segmentation.
Our take: Compensation is one of the most neglected aspects of CRM, especially when it comes to measuring the impact of compensation on sales behavior. This kind of tracking and analysis tool is a welcome addition to the CRM arsenal.

Callidus has announced two new service programs designed to help clients improve the effectiveness of their incentive compensation programs. These services are intended to help clients keep current compensation systems operating at peak efficiency, while more effectively managing compensation plan changes that result from organizational growth or business changes. The goal is to allow clients access to quantifiable incentive metrics to accelerate critical sales and business decision-making processes.
Our take: See comments about Netsuite’s new product.