Exclusive: Siebel's hosted CRM doesn't rise to the top
Although impressive, nicely priced OnDemand Release 8 falls short on heavyweight features
Contract management and quote-generation tools, such as those found in Salesforce.com, are missing. Features for data scrubbing would be a benefit in the absence of real-time duplicate detection.
An Outlook plug-in bridges e-mail capabilities and an Excel client provides offline access to data. Although good in a pinch, it would benefit from smarter sync management, such as delta-change to speed record exchange on the road. The option for conflict resolution on upload would be nice, too.
Flash-driven dashboards bring decent graphical insight. Analytics on pipeline condition and aging service requests are brought to life and can be drilled through for details. Unfortunately, dashboards are limited to one per page (outside the Dashboard tab) and none can be modified beyond basic predefined sift criteria, such as time period.
Reporting features were superb. With a good number of reports at the ready and a wizard-driven facility to build and customize new ones, specific insights are gleaned from your unified customer data. Not all reports are real-time, however, requiring nightly system updates.
Campaign marketing facilities were a bit lackluster; good for basic tracking and lead association but missing comprehensive campaign-building tools.
Reports can be generated, though, to reveal clear-cut insight into ROI and campaign effectiveness.
To Service With Love
I found the most advanced components of OnDemand in the service-focused facilities. Siebel provides a good out-of-the-box service and call center experience that runs atop Telephony@Work’s CallCenter@nywhere engine.
The service delivers VoIP integration (SIP and H.323) and call routing to off-premises numbers such as a cell phone or home office, along with decent tools for IVR development (despite the inability to preview outbound audio files) and rules-based communications routing.
OnDemand assigns agents to cases based on skill set, rather than just pulling them randomly from a queue. The screen pop-ups put customer data at their fingertips, and wrap-up screens ensure pertinent data is always collected properly. The call center and CRM service portions of OnDemand are in lock step, guaranteeing customer records are updated with full audit trails and activity histories.
Managers can monitor inbound queues, and a good tool set allows them to track agent performance and lend guidance using features for call monitoring and recording, offline coaching, and conferencing into a call to provide a positive customer experience.
Although a good bit of Siebel’s on-premises package has yet to find its way into OnDemand, there are a number of perks, such as IP-based access restrictions, historical forecast comparisons, and decent help and training facilities, which could favorably skew adoption rates.
Despite its shortcomings, OnDemand is a good hosted service with solid potential. Were Siebel to throw some of its sizeable cash reserves into accelerating development, the company would not only give Salesforce.com a run for its money but might actually begin shaping the future of the on-demand CRM market.
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