Touts Customer-Service Apps

It expands its CRM offerings with, a new service that will let companies set up call centers, help desks and other customer-service systems without installing and maintaining software at their own headquarters.

Seeking to diversify beyond its sales-force-automation roots, on Wednesday introduced a new on-demand call center and help desk application service called

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. 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.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read an in-depth interview with CEO Marc Benioff and learn why he is bullish about his companys future.

This is an important move for 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.

Next Page: Appealing to the midmarket.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...