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| Self-service vendors in the news
The self-service market has seen plenty of consolidation over the past few years, with large CRM companies getting on board with self service applications through acquisitions. Microsoft purchased TellMe in early 2007 to round out its customer self-service offerings. Before Siebel was purchased by Oracle, it bought Edocs in late 2004 for its e-billing and self-service tools. IBM and Consona Corporation (formerly M2M Holdings) have also purchased smaller self-service vendors in the past few years in an effort to compete with comprehensive CRM and customer service software packages. Catch up on all self-service industry headlines here.
M2M Holdings, which changed its name to Consona Corporation in March of 2007, acquired Knova for its e-service tools late in 2006. It bought the company for approximately $47 million. Privately held Consona had bought Onyx in 2005 for its CRM application. Consona's primary asset is Made2Manage Systems Inc., an Indianapolis-based enterprise software and services company focused on small and midsized manufacturers. Consona promised to maintain Knova's product line and enhance, maintain and support the application by integrating it. M2M will have some challenges integrating Knova because its install base is so ERP-centric and IT-heavy, making cross-sell and upsell more difficult, according to John Ragsdale, vice president of research for the Service and Support Professionals Association. Knova itself was the combination of Kanisa, a customer service knowledge management technology vendor, and ServiceWare, a service resolution management firm.
Self-service software market consolidates with big vendor acquisitions
Learn more about M2M's purchase of e-service firm Knova
Late in 2005, IBM purchased iPhrase Systems Inc., which is now known as IBM OmniFind Discovery Edition. The iPhrase technology provides search technology to improve e-commerce sales, online service and support, and call center productivity. The acquisition broadened IBM's information management portfolio with enterprise search and content management. According to IBM, iPhrase's technology is compliant with IBM's Unstructured Information Management Architecture. It will be used to help customers and partners discover inherent meaning from a wide variety of data. While the iPhrase purchase seemed to fit in with IBM's information on-demand strategy, what's less clear is what the future will be for iPhrase's customer self-service applications.
Learn more about IBM and its purchase of iPhrase
Late in 2004, Siebel Systems Inc. jumped into the e-billing and self-service game in a big way with the acquisition of Edocs Inc. for $115 million in cash. Natick, Mass.-based Edocs provides technology for online bill payment and customer self-service account management, driving customers from expensive calls into the call center onto online channels. Edocs customers are primarily companies in the Telcom industry, credit card divisions of large financial services organizations and in healthcare. Siebel will integrate all of Edocs into its organization including its service, field sales and engineering departments. The technology of the two companies is also compatible.
"That's a pretty smart move," said Allen Bonde, president and founder of the Allen Bonde Group Inc. in Framingham, Mass. "This is the kind of deal I've been expecting Siebel to make for a long time but they never pulled the trigger. Edocs is really in the traditional market that Siebel has targeted."
Find out more about Siebel's purchase of Edocs
Microsoft announced its acquisition of TellMe Networks Inc. in mid-March of 2007. TellMe provides voice services that include directory assistance, customer service and voice-enabled applications. Its mobile search service at 1-800-555-TELL helps users find local businesses, sports scores and movie times. Businesses use TellMe's voice services and platform to provide customers with voice-access services ranging from banking to package tracking. TellMe's voice platform analyzes caller requests to continually improve the system's accuracy and overall caller experience, according to the company. According to Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft business division, within three years, 100 million people will be enabled to do click to call. The acquisition will also bolster Microsoft's search development, he added.
Microsoft increases self-service strength
Read more on Microsoft's acquisition of TellMe's speech technology
Microsoft purchased Colloquis Inc. and its automated customer service technology in October of 2006. New York-based Colloquis makes a self-service tool that answers customer questions with a natural language processing technology.
Microsoft will offer services based on Colloquis technology to online businesses as well as incorporating it into its own applications. It will begin by offering a managed service called Windows Live Service Agents, a hosted customer service application, based on Colloquis technology. It will augment Microsoft's Customer Care Framework (CCF) contact center application. Within Microsoft, the first group to use the new product will be the Xbox organization, which will provide answers to commonly asked questions for online customers.
Read more about Microsoft's Colloquis buy
KANA's IQ 9.1 product wowed SearchCRM.com's panel of judges to win the 2006 Product of the Year award for online self-service. Menlo Park, Calif.-based KANA Software Inc. has refined its knowledge management (KM) system with the IQ 9.1 product, which offers a single source of information for each customer interaction. One of the first KM products released in the market, the product's maturity plus functionality made it a winner.
Self-service products ranked, praised
KANA IQ includes capabilities such as expert reasoning and retrieval methodologies that allow customers to find answers online to detailed questions. KANA IQ is also integrated with other KANA applications so that agents can launch and use it quickly. KANA IQ also ensures customer service consistency -- customers get the same answers whether they are chatting online or talking to an agent. Routing functionality sends each question to the most qualified agent, and also allows for language routing.
Find out more about SearchCRM.com's 2006 Products of the Year winners
In 2005, Framingham, Mass.-based Allen Bonde Group (ABG) released its latest self-service scorecard. ABG identified Bozeman, Mont.-based RightNow Technologies Inc. and Cupertino, Calif.-based Knova Software Inc. as the leaders in the market.
"They're in that [leadership] position for two reasons," said Allen Bonde, president. "RightNow did a great job on the sales and marketing front and executed well. Knova has done well because their integration with ServiceWare is smoother than they or we had hoped." RightNow scored a 17 and Knova a 16.5, based on a 20-point scale that awards up to five points across four categories. Rankings are available at www.selfservicescorecard.com. Bonde defines the self-service market fairly broadly, encompassing companies that have identified and marketed themselves as self-service software vendors; that participate in deals where self service is a primary, if not leading, requirement; and where a majority of revenue is focused on self-service products.
Get the full story on the self-service rankings