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Salesforce.com launches on-demand support

CEO says demand for automated support and service drives addition to customer resource management products.

Salesforce.com unveiled an on-demand customer support service on Wednesday, in a move to broaden its customer relationship management offerings.

Supportforce.com is designed to allow a company's support staff to manage and share customer information on-demand through call centers, help desks and contact centers.

"This is a major new push for us," said Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com's chief executive. He said the company wants to ride the growing wave of demand for automated customer support and service.

Some analysts described the on-demand support service as a maturation of Salesforce.com's CRM business applications software.

"This is the next evolution in Salesforce building out its total CRM pie," said Peter Coleman, an analyst with Schwab Soundview Capital Markets. "And it's of particular interest because the company's customers will be more sticky with the support. The more integration or touch points you have with the customer, the harder it is to switch applications."

Other analysts, however, were less impressed with the announcement.

"It looks a lot like what Siebel, SAP and PeopleSoft have been doing for years. I don't see it as competitively meaningful, as it relates to the larger enterprise vendors out there," said Donovan Gow, an analyst with American Technology Research.

While Benioff acknowledges the concepts of customer service and support with call centers and help desks are not new, he said few companies put those tasks in an on-demand environment.

The Supportforce.com software, as well as the company's core Salesforce.com software, are licensed under a subscription basis for $65 to $125 per user per month.