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Applications

Midmarket specialists update hosted CRM

Sage Software and RightNow Technologies, providers of customer relationship management tools, launch new hosted applications.

A pair of companies offering hosted customer relationship management software for small and medium-size businesses announced new product upgrades Monday.

Sage Software and RightNow Technologies, which compete in the market for so-called on-demand CRM--Web-based applications that manage business tasks such as contact management and sales force automation--both detailed new additions to their respective offerings. While RightNow is focused almost entirely on the hosted business applications space, Sage is probably best known for the on-premise version of its Act contact management package. Sage also launched its own on-demand offering, SageCRM, earlier this year.

RightNow, which specializes in call center and customer service technology, introduced a new set of applications aimed at providing companies with what it calls "voice-enabled CRM." The applications, derived in large part from the company's recently completed acquisition of Convergent Voice, encompass automated voice systems that can cull data from its customers' CRM databases.

Among the tools RightNow is introducing are applications that offer voice-oriented incident management, order status, repair tracking, refund status, password reset and customer survey capabilities. Joseph Brown, vice president of voice solutions at RightNow, said companies are increasingly looking to blend their CRM systems with automated voice technologies.

"We're seeing convergence in voice systems and CRM every day, and customers know they can derive significant benefits in bringing the applications together to access their data faster and to arm workers and customers with real-time information," Brown said. "This is an area where we know companies can realize immediate gains by adding additional communications channels to their CRM operations."

RightNow maintains that voice communications still account for well over 60 percent of all interactions that businesses have with their partners and customers, and the company contends that building greater amounts of voice-oriented technologies into CRM systems will help companies cut operations costs.

For its part, Sage took the wraps off the latest upgrade to its Act product line, launching a new set of tools that offer people the ability to access the contact management software over the Internet. Called Act Premium for Web, the offering is meant to provide customers of the company's various products the ability to use Act from any computer with an online connection.

Among the specific features promised by the Web-based Act interface are applications for use in customizing industry-specific information, managing calendar items, creating forecasting reports, performing keyword searches and collaborating with other people using the online tools.

Sage said that the Web-based Act interface offers significant security protection, as the system utilizes a centrally administered server located behind a company's firewall. The software can also be used to deliver information to various mobile devices, including Palm, Pocket PC and BlackBerry handhelds, when used in tandem with Sage's on-premise Act applications.