SAN MATEO (04/03/2000) - Both e-businesses and brick-and-mortar shops hopping on the Web wagon have high hopes of luring customers via the Internet. But what happens when the masses arrive? Many companies are struggling with customer service representative shortages, which for customers means agonizing hold times on support lines and e-mail inquiries that never receive a reply. You can add warm bodies to your customer service department, but that's an expensive answer that may not resolve the problem as handily or as cost-effectively as an eCRM (electronic customer relationship management) system.
In the digital marketplace, shoppers' expectations are becoming increasingly demanding; shoppers want timely, accurate, and personalized customer service.
Because the competition is only a few mouse clicks away, businesses need to deliver reliable and efficient assistance to their customers in record time.
Talisma Corp.'s built-for-the-enterprise eCRM system will help take your customer relationships into the rapidly changing realm of e-business.
Talisma Enterprise Edition 2.02 gives you a way to provide online support, service, marketing, and sales via e-mail with customers. Its easy-to-use interface cuts down on the time it takes to train new users; provides fast access to critical and complete customer information; and allows companies to know exactly where they stand on individual customer cases. Enterprise Edition lets customer service departments accurately answer and track more calls with fewer service representatives.
Talisma hopes to take EGain, the current leader in this market space, head on with its robust Enterprise Edition.
A guaranteed deployment
Talisma requires Enterprise Edition customers to purchase the QuickStart program: For $10,000, Talisma installs and configures the eCRM system and trains your employees on it in five days. The vendor's engineers leverage your existing information infrastructure, so the data is rapidly connected to a SQL database. This is a one-time setup fee charged in lieu of a preconfigured server.
Unlike other eCRM systems, such as Tigerpaw Business Suite 8, Enterprise Edition is extremely scalable and has a flexible user interface. Using SQL Server 7.0, Enterprise Edition easily mounts terabytes of customer information from sources such as e-mail and Web forms. That information is then readily available via LAN, dial-up, and Web clients. And because the Talisma Enterprise server is accessible via any PC with a Web browser, your IT staff will not have to install software on users' local machines.
Service reps have a notoriously high turnover, which means that the department manager usually has to spend a lot of time training new hires on picking up current customer cases and locating case information. Enterprise Edition can cut back that training time significantly with its easy-to-use, self-explanatory GUI. I was very impressed by Enterprise Edition's clean, appealing client interface, which looks similar to Microsoft Outlook. It immediately showed me exactly what had already taken place in each of my test cases, as well as the time line, notes on phone conversations, e-mail inquiries, and sales histories.
The workspace is highly functional with five task-specific workspace tabs: Mail Room, My Cases, Filing Cabinet, Customer File, and Reports.
The Mail Room is a shared in-box in which all incoming customer communications, the Talisma Enterprise server, aliases, queues, and mail slots can be seen by every user. Customer service representatives can prioritize, answer, and assign customer cases.
My Cases is the individualized view in which filters allow instant analyses of incoming e-mails and customer cases. It also offers a chronological list of all events recorded for each customer case.
Seamless customer service
The Filing Cabinet and the Customer File are the workhorses of Enterprise Edition. Through them, I could search the database based on text, time intervals, to whom the case was assigned, or category; the latter three options have drop-down menu boxes. I could make queries on customer names, e-mail addresses, companies, addresses, customer service representatives, and by categories; the last two also have drop-down menus, which is good for consistency. Search options can be saved as filters.
Retrieving customer information was nearly instantaneous. It is shown in a threaded view, which lets service reps follow complete customer histories and communications. Threaded information gives service reps the information they need to provide the best service to the customer, even if they haven't previously worked with that customer. It creates seamless service by letting any user open a customer case and know exactly what is going on. In addition, Enterprise Edition allows service reps to handle more messages and provide faster responses.
My favorite feature of Enterprise Edition is its Reports workspace. The four basic reports cover all the bases for a complete business analysis. Customer service managers can view real-time information about the status of open cases either by individual aliases or across the organization; set predetermined reports that can be run and distributed on a regular basis via e-mail or uploaded to an intranet; watch for long-term and short-term trends in productivity; see if customer inquiries are coming from e-forms or e-mails; and track outbound mailing responses.
For added power
This version offers a few additional modules, called Administration, SDK (software developer's kit), and Outbound Marketing Campaign. The Administrator module is a Microsoft Management Console/ ODBC application that uses an effective rules engine to simplify repetitive tasks. It can be set up to create intelligent auto responders that pull canned responses from the knowledge base.
The SDK module creates customized services that integrate call centers. Using data mined from the enterprise, Outbound Marketing Campaign module zeros in on customers' wants and needs, allows for personalized mass mailings and replies, automatically tracks responses, monitors URL click-throughs, and creates custom reports to let you know which marketing strategies are successful.
I found Talisma Enterprise Edition lacking only one feature: integrated instant messaging. However, Talisma has just announced that a proactive Chat module, which will thread a conversation into a new or existing customer case file, is due to be released in early April 2000.
Talisma Enterprise Edition 2.02 is a powerful, yet easy-to-use eCRM system. The robust customer database guarantees that customers won't slip through the cracks. Integration and deployment are seamless and instantaneous, creating immediate return on investment. Personalization and one-to-one contact, despite an enormous client base, become manageable and attainable. Businesses in today's digital marketplace are competing for customer loyalty, and by providing seamless service and being proactive to customers, your business can zero in to offer your customers exactly what they want.
Sandra Kay Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an independent technology writer and a remote access specialist for Elixir Technologies, in Ojai, Calif.
THE BOTTOM LINE: EXCELLENT
Talisma Enterprise Edition 2.02
Business Case: This eCRM system integrates e-mail management, customized outbound marketing, customer trends and transactions tracking, and rapid inquiry response while maintaining high-quality customer service and reducing staffing costs.
Technology Case: The scalable, robust Enterprise Edition simplifies processes such as personalized customer response via its easy-to-use GUI. It maintains contacts whether customers send queries through e-mail, Web forms, or telephone.
+ Easy to deploy
+ Straightforward user interface
+ Provides seamless customer service
- None significant
Cost: Starts at $3,000 per seat; $10,000 one-time fee: QuickStart Program; $5,000 to $20,000: Outbound Marketing Module; $15,000: Talisma SDKPlatform(s): Server software: Microsoft NT 4.0 and SQL 7.0; Clients: Windows 95/98/2000 and Windows NT 4.0Talisma Corp., Kirkland, Wash.; (425) 897-2900; www.talisma.com.