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KANA Customers Connected at the Hipbone

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Posted January 5, 2004 By Susan Kuchinskas     Feedback

The CRM specialist's acquisition lets call center reps help customers via live chat and co-browsing.

Bolstering its technology portfolio and customer list, CRM vendor KANA said Monday it would acquire Hipbone for an undisclosed sum.

Kana provides knowledge management, e-mail marketing, customer contact center operations, marketing and analytics applications, while Hipbone enables live chat, co-browsing and file sharing.

With Hipbone, call center reps can access the same Web page as the customer they're trying to help. For example, if a customer has trouble completing an online mortgage application, the rep can help him navigate, and, if necessary, take over actions, such as filling in a form.

Reps can also interact with customers via the telephone or live chat, the latter useful for customers on dial-up connections. Hipbone boasts several financial services customers, including Wells Fargo Bank.

Real-time support by a live person has become a make-or-break for customer-centric sites. In a survey of Internet shoppers conducted by Vividence, 37 percent of respondents preferred toll-free phone support, followed by live chat (19 percent).

Mike Burkland, president and CEO of San Carlos, Calif.-based Hipbone, said the companies' product lines and industry focuses are a good fit.

Hipbone's technology will become a part of KANA's iCARE platform. Kana will integrate it into its other products and also continue to offer it as a stand-alone product. The combo will also let different agents within the contact center work together on the same screens or Web pages.

First of all, said KANA executive vice president of product strategy Brian Kelly, will be the iCARE platform itself. "The benefit of integrating with the framework," Kelly said, "is that things like workflow and rules engines are shared services within the framework." That way, customers who want to buy only a single KANA module get the benefit of Hipbone's collaboration technology.

Next, Menlo Park, Calif.-based KANA will integrate Hipbone with KANA IQ, its knowledge management application, and KANA Response, its e-mail-based customer service application. "We'll do that because the knowledge management system will help agents answering chat [or e-mail] requests faster and more accurately by leveraging KANA IQ," Kelly said.

Because KANA and Hipbone have worked together on client installations, Kelly foresees integration going smoothly, with the iCARE work completed in the first quarter of this year.

The acquisition -- and the preservation of the separate Hipbone product -- will let KANA extend its reach into verticals while benefiting from Hipbone's existing relationships.

For example, Hillsboro, Ore.-based Corillian , a provider of enterprise software and services for the financial services industry, paired with Hipbone in June to offer a product that let online banking customers work with customer service reps via secure text chat, co-browsing and Internet call-back. Corillian also has worked with Kana, handling back-end integration of Kana's software for its bank customers.

"This is an exciting new technology, and Kana will probably do even greater things with it," said Alex Hart, president and CEO of Corillian. "Hipbone will have access to more resources and more salespeople, and have a higher profile."

Hart said that Corillian is vendor-agnostic and works with all major CRM vendors. The acquisition also makes Kana look better to Corillian's customers. "This makes Kana stronger in our minds and more attractive to banks looking for strong technology," he said.

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