Quiq also includes features for managing the public environment, such as keyword filters that trap undesirable or vulgar postings, Richardson says. The system's moderator can look at content at any time and handle troublesome postings or participants.
Blaza plans to use these advanced management features in the future. But first, he wants to integrate Quiq with eChips' internal content management systems so a user reading about a knowledge-base topic sees a link to related Quiq question-and-answer threads. Blaza anticipates that the integration won't be difficult because Quiq has good application programming and integration interfaces. Quiq's import/export framework for integration handles about 95% of the work automatically, claims Ramakrishnan, but he adds that the customer's IT department usually needs to do some customization.
Nonetheless, integration is an area that needs improvement, Richardson says. And he acknowledges that Quiq Connect doesn't leverage the data it captures very well. To help address that problem, a feature to be released this year will let companies offer their users different support levels, including a standard access level that's limited to certain areas of the knowledge base and a premium support level that gives users access to more information.
A Market in Questions
Chris Martins, an analyst at Aberdeen Group, says collaborative customer service applications like Quiq Connect, which can deliver rapid answers to customer questions, are here to stay. "It's an important and emerging market area," he says. Aberdeen projects that this year's customer service software sales will be approximately $7 billion.
Sharon Ward, director of enterprise business applications at Framingham, Mass.-based market researcher Hurwitz Group Inc., says Quiq is riding the trend toward cutting customer support costs by providing online self-help. "It's hitting the right place at the right time," she says. But Ward warns that the company's technology doesn't give it a sustainable competitive advantage.
Quiq's current competitors are small firms, although CEO Greg Richardson says he expects to see new start-ups and large companies, like San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel Systems Inc., enter the market.
Orbital Software Group Ltd.
Orbital's Organik software has features similar to Quiq Connect's, with search capabilities, answer ratings and e-mail notifications. Outside experts can also contribute.
Broad Daylight Inc.
Santa Clara, Calif.