Siebel buys Ineto, extends hosted reach

Siebel Systems Inc. pulled another hosted rabbit out of its CRM hat Tuesday by announcing the acquisition of Ineto Services, a hosted contact center service that will be integrated into its CRM OnDemand service.

Ineto will give Siebel's SMB OnDemand customers the ability to offer its users a higher level of support, typically available only at the enterprise level.

"With the addition of Ineto, companies will be able to capture every single touch of the customer and provide better sales techniques to customers and prospects as well as better support," said Keith Raffel, vice president of CRM OnDemand.

The Ineto solution will be integrated into the Siebel OnDemand service and give smaller companies a call center that supports voicemail, IVR (Interactive Voice Recognition), e-mail, chat, and fax. Companies will also be able to dial up or dial down levels of service depending on seasonal activity or other issues that affect its business.

The Ineto acquisition also at least matches's September 2003 partnership with EchoPass, another hosted contact service supplier. But instead of a partnership, Siebel is purchasing Ineto for US$5 million in cash. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

Both Siebel and stress that full-fledged contact center support is typically beyond the reach of smaller companies.

"A lot of our mid-size customers can't make the investment in hardware and software," said Kaiser Mulla-Feroze, director of product marketing at

One industry analyst said that the Siebel acquisition puts Siebel in an excellent position against its competitors.

"Integrating the call center to the CRM stack is a powerful offering," said Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

Siebel's Raffel compared the acquisition of Ineto to its acquisition of Scopus, another contact center service in the mid 90s.

"When we bought Scopus six or seven years ago, that's when Siebel took off. A year after that no company would buy a CRM solution that did not integrate contact center support. The same will be true of our OnDemand service," he said.

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