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Fujitsu unit digs into online customer service

The company's Amdahl subsidiary launches an Internet venture that aims to help businesses handle customer service and support on the Web.

    Fujitsu's Amdahl subsidiary today launched an Internet venture that aims to help businesses handle customer service and support on the Web.

    Trustedanswer.com, which is funded by Amdahl--Fujitsu's $2 billion computer services, hardware and software division--said it will build customer support Web sites and databases.

    The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based start-up said it will provide customer relationship management software, which will let customers ask questions online and get a real-time responses from Trustedanswer's database.

    The services are available today; prices start at $15,000 per month, the company said.

    Several companies compete against Trustedanswer, hoping to cash in on a rapidly expanding market as companies look for ways to communicate with their customers online. International Data Corp. expects the market to grow to $12.5 billion in 2003 from $2 billion last year.

    "(Trustedanswer) is pitching an alternative to the traditional call center solution, eliminating the part where you have to talk to a live customer services agent," said Chris Martins, an analyst at Aberdeen Group. "The key to this (start-up) being successful is to build up a sufficient raw knowledge base of content so that their self-service capabilities can answer a significant number of questions for users."

    He added that the overall market for customer relationship management offerings is "big enough to accommodate a number of suppliers and vendors, as well as big enough to accommodate several business models."

    Trustedanswer will host, implement, manage and support companies' sites and customer databases remotely, ridding them of the headaches that accompany software installations and support, the company said. It promises to give businesses a hosted site in six to eight weeks.

    Led by CEO Ali Jenab, Trustedanswer said it intends to quickly add other capabilities, such as the ability to answer natural language queries, and it plans to spin off from Amdahl.

    The company said it has already partnered to host Web-based, self-service applications from software makers Silknet Software and Primus Knowledge Solutions, using SafeHarbor's customer call center.

    Silknet and Primus make Web-based problem-solving software that companies use for online customer support. For example, Primus' software can be used to capture data, solve customers' problems, access information stored in a database and share problem-solving data throughout a business.