September 6, 2012, 11:27 AM

Kana aims to help retailers tie together various customer service channels

The customer service vendor says the tool is geared to mid-sized merchants.

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Customer service vendor Kana Software Inc. has launched a new tool called Kana Express aimed at helping mid-sized e-retailers tie together their various customer service channels.

The offering aims to help retailers provide a more consistent customer service experience to consumers by providing a single platform where retailers can monitor consumers’ interactions via the phone, e-mail, social media and live chat. Kana Express integrates with both an e-retailer’s back-end systems, such as its customer-relationship management system so that customer service agents can have a complete view of consumers’ interactions with the brand.

Kana hosts the software on its own servers, allowing users to access it over the Internet—or via the “cloud”—for a monthly subscription fee. That way, smaller retailers don’t need to invest in and maintain their own hardware and software or hire extra staff to take care of related information technology needs, the vendor says.

“A lot of companies try to address the mid-market, but Kana takes their experience from large enterprise-size data, chat, e-mail response and calls, and puts it all together,” says R. “Ray” Wang, principal analyst and CEO at business advisory firm Constellation Research. “This isn’t easy to do.”

The Express package allows retailers to perform a certain number of customer interactions per year before a charge-per-interaction model sets in, Kana says; the average client pays between $40,000 and $60,000 a year including hardware and data center services. Retailers can also opt to buy sub-modules separately. The social and mobile modules each cost around $10,000 per year, Kana says, and the agent and web experience modules are priced just above that.

Kana Express is the result of a string of acquisitions the vendor has made throughout the past year. The vendor acquired cloud-based customer service software company Trinicom Communications LLC in April and customer contact center provider Ciboodle from the Sword Group in July.

“The reason why these acquisitions are good is that they align with what customers want: a simpler technology ecosystem to manage from both a systems perspective and a contractual perspective,” wrote Kate Leggett, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in a blog post about Kana’s acquisition of Ciboodle.

“They’re just starting,” Wang says. Kana’s acquisitions are in response to a larger trend towards e-commerce investments in technology for marketing rather than I.T. departments, he says. That trend is evident as I.T. budgets are down 5% to 10% year over year while technology spending is up 18% to 20%. “The business side is making a lot of the technology calls for the company,” he says. “There’s a big land grab for getting the chief marketing officer budget.”

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