Since it was founded in 1999, salesforce.com has been driving other vendors and end-user organizations to rethink how they supply and purchase software. The company has grown from being a supplier of CRM in the cloud to a vendor with diverse offerings that include a development platform, an app exchange, platforms that support marketing, sales and customer service, knowledge management, desktop technology, collaboration, website development, social media support and analytics. Along the way it has also become a powerful marketing machine – which sometimes gets in the way of understanding just what its products do and don’t do, and where they all fit. This obfuscation also extends to its extensive range of partners, where again it is sometimes hard to know who it deals with and how.
The situation is particularly true for the contact center. The company’s marketing message would have us believe that salesforce.com plays in the contact center market, but it has partners – Cisco, Interactive Intelligence, LiveOps, NewVoiceMedia and Vocalcom to name a few – that are better recognized as providers of contact center systems. As a result I have been a little skeptical of salesforce’s marketing messages and have urged organizations to take care to learn just what the company has to offer in this space. But as I learn more and spot new trends in the market, I see salesforce.com beginning to play a bigger part in customer interaction-handling, multimedia customer service and customer experience management.
My recent research into customer relationship maturity has led to me to these conclusions:
- Organizations have to provide multimedia customer service.
- They have to support more channels of communication, including social media.
- Interactions are being handled across the organization, including by home and mobile workers, so companies need to support employee collaboration and mobility.
- Consumer use of social media has gone crazy, so companies have to develop sound social media strategies and move beyond using it mostly for marketing, and thus just having a Twitter handle, a Facebook page and a few YouTube videos. Most importantly, they have to understand what consumers are saying about them on social media so they can respond appropriately.
- The growing use of tablets and smartphones means companies have to consider providing mobile customer service apps.
Considering that my research into contact centers in the cloud shows that companies see moving to the cloud as the answer to these challenges, we can see that salesforce has a portfolio of products that meet most of these requirements. The desktop in Service Cloud allows agents to view the information they need to resolve multimedia customer interactions. Service Cloud includes CTI and call-routing capabilities to get interactions to the right people to handle them. While Desk.com doesn’t support CTI, it allows agents to access the information they need to handle interactions. Chatter supports collaboration both internally and with customers. Heroku allows companies to build social and mobile apps. Radian6 provides insights into what consumers are saying on social media and supports companies taking action based on what they see. Data.com allows companies to manage their customer data and enhance it so they have a fuller picture of their customers – a point often overlooked by organizations, but our research into customer relationship maturity shows that the lack of a single source of high-quality data and a single shared set of customer-related reports and analysis are two of the main barriers preventing companies from providing excellent customer service and experiences.
Recently I received updates on Service Cloud and Desk.com that uncovered lots of new developments – too many to cover in detail – which, as highlighted above, extend salesforce further into interaction and customer experience management. During my discussions with the company, one of my objectives was to better understand the differences between the desktop at the heart of Service Cloud and Desk.com. Functionally they are similar, but as mentioned above, Desk.com does not support CTI. The big difference is the target markets: Desk.com is aimed at the small enterprise (100 to 200 users) and Service Cloud is aimed at the midsize to very large enterprise. What the company lacks in a contact center in the cloud is what is now popularly called communications in the cloud – managing all the bits and bytes of sending and receiving interactions – and what we call agent performance management – managing the time and activities of people who handle interactions. But salesforce.com has partners that cover both of these areas, and as it brings its internal offerings more tightly together and integrates them with its partners’, it can help organizations innovative in the way they handle customer interactions.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director