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Cisco and Salesforce unite on integrated call centers

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Cisco and Salesforce.com are teaming up to sell a web-hosted call center package to small and medium-sized businesses.

The duo's newly minted Customer Interaction Cloud hooks Cisco's call-processing technology into Salesforce's web-based customer relations management platform.

Cisco is contributing its Unified Contact Center suite into the mix, for call-center functionality like intelligent contact routing and voice commands over the phone. The tech has been integrated into Salesforce's Service Cloud 2 platform for a customer care or support center offering that's hosted off in the wild blue yonder.

"The combination of Cisco's Unified Communications and salesforce.com's Service Cloud 2 will provide companies with a true cloud based option when it comes to their customer service needs," Salesforce's vice president of customer service and support products Alex Dayon said.

"Companies will no longer have to manage routers, servers and switches when it comes to their contact center, they can focus on delivering the best customer service possible."

The service will also let companies use social websites like Facebook or Twitter to provide support to customers, according to a Cisco spokesman.

The service is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2010, and will cost a monthly fee of $250 per user. Both companies will sell the package and split the revenue.

The cloudy hook-up also seems to be a win for both companies - at least as far as appearances go. Salesforce gets the backing of a huge and time-tested beast like Cisco, and Cisco gets to pitch more product to the SMB market where it's been pushing hard to expand.

Also on Monday, Salesforce announced what it calls the "five-minute upgrade," for its CRM service. Now during planned maintenance or upgrades, customers will still have read-only access to their Service Cloud 2 deployment, with the exception of a five-minute cut-over time.

The company said the low downtime is possible through its fully mirrored data centers. When it upgrades the service in one data center, companies will be able to have limited access of their application through one of saleforce's other global data centers. The feature is scheduled for beta testing in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2010, and pilot program in the first quarter of 2011. ®

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