BT and Siebel have teamed up to target medium sized enterprises, despite Tom Siebel's claims earlier this year that the mid-market was "crummy".
The Contract Central initiative will bundle together the necessary components for a multimedia contact centre, such as IP switching, telephony and Siebel's call centre application software.
"This will enable small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to provide the same levels of accessibility, competitiveness and customer satisfaction as any large enterprise," said Siebel, chairman of the customer relationship management (CRM) system supplier.
At this year's Enterprise 2001 conference in California, Siebel told delegates that the only reason the company was in the "crummy" mid-market was to prevent smaller players from competing in its core top-tier space.
Through providing a pre-bundled offering, firms would find it easier, quicker and cheaper to install a call centre solution, opening up CRM capabilities to a set of companies that had previously been excluded because of cost, said Danny McLaughlin, managing director at BT Major Business.
"System integration costs, consulting fees and long lead times on projects have previously restricted CRM to only the very richest of firms," he said.
BT is promising that the pre-integration work done on developing Contact Central will allow customers to implement the system in as little as 25 days. The standard implementation enables firms to manage voice and email contacts and costs £3,000 per seat.
The system can be modified for sales, services or both and can also handle internet-based enquiries. Costs rise to £7,000 depending on the number of modules and media channels required.
BT and Siebel are not the first to offer speedy CRM solutions. Earlier this year, Oracle promised that it would deliver CRM in 90 days. But there were those in the industry who questioned the wisdom of the approach.
"A great deal of mixing and matching of tools is required and integrating this with legacy systems is what takes the real time," said Tom Black, chief executive of CRM consultancy Detica.
Contact Central supports a wide set of interfaces to work with both front- and back-end systems making integration easier, said McLaughlin.
In addition to the SME market, BT hopes to attract public sector bodies to adopt its call centre solution. "The solution is ideal for government departments such as police forces which have to handle many enquiries from the public," said Pierre Danon, chief executive at BT Retail.
Given the number of scheduled e-government initiatives, there is likely to be a high demand for services that require some principles of CRM to be used, concluded a recent report by technology consulting firm Accenture.
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