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Vignette tool aims to hook customers

The new product can help companies keep customers engaged through e-mails, phone calls, text messages, direct mail or even pager messages--though companies shouldn't go overboard.

Vignette unveiled a new software program Thursday designed to help companies plan and keep track of interactions with their customers, a move that pushes the company into the highly competitive customer relationship management (CRM) software market.

The Austin, Texas, software company said the new product, called Vignette Dialog, can help companies convert prospects into sales by keeping prospective customers engaged through a succession of targeted e-mails, phone calls, cell phone text messages, direct mail or even pager messages--though it advises companies not to go overboard.

"We don't want to flood people with information they don't want to receive," said Darrin Wood, product manager at Vignette.

Vignette based the product on software assets it acquired in October from Revenio, which had been based in Burlington, Mass., before it folded. It plans to release a new version of Dialog in March that is more closely tied into its Web-content-authoring software.

The Dialog product lets companies design standard responses to customer interactions, Wood said. For instance, a company could set up the software to automatically send follow-up e-mail to people who called a customer service number. The company could then tailor follow-up e-mail messages, offering new promotions, for instance, depending on the customer's profile and questions.

Wood said the company does not mean to compete with CRM software makers such as Siebel Systems. Instead, it views its new product as complementary to Siebel's sales, marketing and call center applications. Dialog is unique, he said, in its ability to coordinate customer communications both online and off.

The price of Vignette Dialog starts at $150,000.