The new service will allow companies to set up call centers, contact centers, help desks and other customer-service systems without installing and maintaining software at their own headquarters. Instead, customers will log on to the Internet to access these applications running on Salesforce.coms servers.
Salesforce.com has been working over the past two years to develop the customer-service applications, CEO Marc Benioff said. The service has gone live over the past two months with the first seven production customers, he said.
The move to online customer-service applications was a natural progression of the companys business plans, he said.
"Our customers want to have customer agents working in the office and working at home," he said. Supportforce.coms mission is to provide customer service and support applications "that are built for the Internet, that are easy to use, low cost, low risk and provide fast time to value," Benioff said.
He claimed that companies can implement online call center and contact center applications for about 10 percent of what it would cost to install and maintain the typical client-server applications at their own sites.
"Companies are looking to us to expand our role into the customer-service area because we have done a great job of managing their sales forces," Benioff said.
Five telecommunications companies are providing the contact-center telephony infrastructure: Avaya Inc., Alcatel S.A., Aspect Communication Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Inc.
The five companies together represent about 70 percent of the global telecommunication that support call-center customer-service applications, Benioff said.
This is an important move for Salesforce.com because it advances the companys goal of becoming a full-service CRM (customer relationship management) service provider, said Sheryl Kingstone, program manager with the Yankee Group in Boston.
"That really is their vision. They want to be a real CRM player and not just a sales-force-automation player," she said.