WizKids Awards Go to Next-Gen Customer Service Stars

Communispace,BlueRoads,Knowlagent,Rearden Commerce,Five9,ShareMethods,RightNow Technologies,Eloqua andSalesforce.com are the winners of this year’s CRM WizKids Awards, annual accolades bestowed byBeagle Research Group.

A few of the recipients — notably Salesforce.com, RightNow and Five9 — are familiar names in the CRM industry — but most are not. Given the award program’s mission — to identify up-and-coming vendors that are providing next-generation solutions to problems most companies have not yet even identified — that is not surprising.

In fact, it is the main reason he established the award, explained Denis Pombriant, principal of Beagle Research and a regular contributor to CRM Buyer.

“It’s important to continuously explore what are the involving areas of the front office,” he told CRM Buyer. “As new business processes emerge into the mainstream, new applications designed to support those processes and needs follow very quickly.”

For instance, most companies didn’t know they “needed” marketing automation until sales force automation took hold several years ago, he said. “SFA was the tipping point for marketing automation. There was a thirst for more leads, but the systems in place couldn’t keep up with the demand. That may seem like a trivial example now, but at one time it was serious business.”

Innovative Platforms

The CRM technology advancements of the current class of WizKids excel in a few broad areas. One is collaboration; a batch of innovative software platforms support collaboration among distributors, between company and client, or between company and focus group.

It is progress in this area that pushed Salesforce.com onto the list once again. Hardly an up-and-coming company anymore, Salesforce.com just made its AppExchange application generally available.

A platform that extends its CRM suite to other business lines, AppExchange is essentially a marketplace for third-party vendors to sell new applications that have been integrated into Salesforce.com’s original CRM suite. These include everything from project management software to a vertical application that manages a real-estate operation.

Or, consider Rearden Commerce’s accomplishment — an application for discretionary employee spending that helps reduce the economic and social friction preventing companies from fully realizing the benefits of volume pricing, according to the WizKids report.

“It is a great example of a new killer application, because it fits into a space that has never been addressed by software vendors before,” Pombriant said.

BlueRoads collaborated with Avaya to develop a winning hosted application that enables a higher level of engagement between OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and the people who sell their products.

Customer Insight

Another commonality among the award recipients is their approach to leveraging customer insights.

It is slowly dawning on many companies that delivering the best products and the best services is no longer enough, said Martha Rogers, a founding partner of Peppers and Rogers.

“What companies are trying to figure out is how can they use information about what their customers want to their best advantage — and, just as importantly, how can they use that information to keep them from leaving when their competitors start offering the same products and services, as they inevitably will,” she told CRM Buyer.

That sort of raw data is what Communispace can provide to companies. An independent vendor that counts Charles Schwab among its clients, Communispace hosts semi-permanent communities of consumers. Typically, the dialogue, questions and answers exchanged are robust and frank. Beagle Research gave this platform a WizKid award because companies can use it to build intimacy with customers.

That is a common theme among all the WizKids, Pombriant said. “Every one of these companies enables users to, in one way or another, improve the return on customer.”

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