CRM Battle Heats Up With Online Offerings

NetSuite and Siebel are bolstering their respective hosted services as enterprise users seek to get more from online software.

NetSuite Inc. and Siebel Systems Inc. are bolstering their respective hosted services as enterprise users seek to get more from online software.

NetSuite will make available by April Version 10 of its namesake CRM (customer relationship management) services, which will feature a new offline client as well as support for team selling and an automated upselling engine. In addition, NetSuite 10 will include vertical-specific features for the wholesale distribution industry and features geared to service companies, said CEO Zach Nelson, in San Mateo, Calif.

NetSuite last week released an upgrade to its business intelligence and analytics dashboard as part of NetSuite 9.5. This includes more than 20 KPIs (key performance indicators), the ability to launch trend graphs from the dashboard or within a KPI, support for snapshots of data from particular time periods, and interface and navigation enhancements.

Software developer Dragnet Solutions Inc., in San Francisco, has 10 seats of NetSuite and plans to have 25 by years end. The offline client is something the company plans to take advantage of, especially as it grows its use of NetSuite, according to Dragnet President Gary Root.

"Its a big thing for our sales and marketing people to have because theyre so mobile," Root said. "That would give us even more of a reason to stay with NetSuite."

Chris Corcoran, president of Marketshare Inc., has his eye on NetSuite 10s automated upselling feature, which could generate recommendations for products to offer to customers based on their purchases or purchasing histories. It could be useful to Marketshare, particularly at the wireless phone stores it runs, Corcoran said.

"That would be a great feature for us," said Corcoran, in Guilford, Conn. "We do a lot of that now, through custom coding, but not having to maintain that code would be ideal."

Meanwhile, Siebel is adding hosted contact center services to its online CRM offering through the acquisition of Ineto Services Inc., which was announced last week. The $5 million deal will let Siebel extend its CRM OnDemand services, launched late last year, with call center management capabilities, which typically require a large, upfront hardware investment to run in-house.

The initial integration, which Siebel has already accomplished, adds screen pop-ups in the Siebel CRM OnDemand applications for voice mail, interactive voice response and caller ID as well as rules-based call routing. The second phase of the Ineto integration, scheduled to be completed by next quarter, will add e-mail and chat integration and co-browsing capabilities to CRM OnDemand.

Siebel, also of San Mateo, plans to add the e-mail marketing technology of another company it recently acquired, BoldFish Inc., to the mix as well, officials said.