SAP readies Web-based customer support enhancements

SAP AG in 2002 plans to extend its Web-based customer support product with co-browsing, to enable both a customer and customer service agent to share a Web session.

Also planned for the product, called SAPMarkets Internet Sales Web Customer Support, is a chat room function, according to a company official. The product, which is deployed with mySAP CRM, SAP's customer relationship management offering, provides customer support assistance for Web shoppers, including phone-, e-mail-, and chat-based support.

Through co-browsing, an agent and customer both can control the browser session; the agent sees exactly what the customer sees and can provide navigation, according to SAP. The product was the subject of a presentation at the SAP TechEd conference here on Tuesday.

"This is especially good if a customer is lost on your Web site," said Birgit Starmanns, product manager for e-Selling at SAPMarkets, a SAP subsidiary focusing on markets and exchanges.

"You will generally want to do this in conjunction with another communication," such as a phone call or chat, so the agent and customer service representative are in synch with what is being done, according to Starmanns. Only a customer can initiative a co-browsing session, she said.

To allay any concerns Web customers might have about customer service agents being able to make orders in the customer's name, the product's business rules prevent this, Starmanns said.

Through the planned chat room function, multiple users can communicate with each other in a Web session.

The co-browsing and chat room functions are expected in Version 3.1 of SAPMarkets Internet Sales Web Customer Support, due to ship in the second quarter of 2002. Prior to that, Version 3.0 will ship in January or February, featuring multi-channel integration, in which customer service agents will receive correspondence in the same form that it came in, such as phone or e-mail.

One SAP TechEd attendee said his company plans to use the product. "It's a new product for a new market," said Shawn Collenburg, senior consultant at Lisle, Ill.-based portal software company Divine Interventures Inc. Collenburg said he liked the product's integrated approach.

SAP also plans to upgrade its CRM middleware, which serves to distribute data back and forth between mySAP CRM and other systems on the network. Improvements are planned for Version 4.0 of mySAP CRM, due approximately in mid-2002.

New features include an improved ability to integrate mySAP CRM into multiple SAP R/3 systems as well as improved integration with multiple databases. A "sync points" feature will provide network points for data caching, to connect a large number of devices to the CRM system while reducing loads on the central CRM server.

Additionally, an administration cockpit will provide an integrated entry point for all administration and monitoring tools as well as preconfigured processes and alerts.

MySAP CRM 4.0 also will support the Web Dynpro GUI technology, according to a SAP official, Peter Kulka, a product management specialist for CRM middleware.

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