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Oracle and InQuira Team Up on Customer Service

The embargo is up, so I can report on a little piece of news I got last week from Oracle. No less a personage than Anthony Lye (with the aid of Susie Penner, one of the best media/analyst relations people I’ve ever met) laid out the details of a partnership with InQuira to deliver an on-demand knowledge management system for customer service. It’s available now.

Oracle and Lye need no introduction. InQuira is a name I’ve encountered before, though the company’s claimed strength is in Web self-service. The partnership itself is not new, either—the two companies announced something similar last year at Oracle OpenWorld, but for on-premises deployments. Today’s announcement extends their work to SaaS.

To quote Oracle’s statement: “The integrated, on demand service solution enables customers to go seamlessly from self-service to live agent-assisted service. Service agents receive overall view of customer issues and actions taken, providing a consistent experience across Web, phone and community-based channels. … With InQuira knowledge management available on demand and embedded in the Oracle CRM On Demand desktop, customer service agents have access to knowledge across the enterprise, enabling them to seamlessly access answers right from within their normal service flow.” Thus, customers who are looking for help or other information encounter fewer bumps on the way up the support chain, while agents can respond more quickly and definitively to customer inquiries. There’s greater likelihood that answers will be consistent across all access points, and the user base’s expertise becomes part of the support mix.

I can’t say that this is a totally unique product—it’s an extension of an existing partnership to provide something similar, and service automation vendors have been working at solutions like this for a few years now—but it does have the stamp of two respected corporate names as well as the addition of SaaS. In my experience, it’s easier to create integrated service environments with smaller businesses, simply because there’s less knowledge to manage and less demand on the delivery channels. Oracle and InQuira working together have a fair chance of extending service integration to really large companies, where customers have previously found it very easy to get lost or confused. The reduced tech footprint of the SaaS option doesn’t hurt either, so companies who are willing and able to go this route should be well served.

Sounds good, right? I think so too, but to be honest I had a little trouble envisioning the structure of the partnership in terms of who brings what to the table and when it comes into play during a service engagement. I’ll be taking a follow-up briefing later today to see how it all works, and maybe get InQuira’s point of view on the partnership. Should anything new and awesome emerge from that call, I’ll update. For now, though, I like what I’ve heard.