In our cynical world, it is hard sometimes to put your head above the parapet and see that some companies actually do give back something to their community. Recently I have been writing positively about salesforce.com and in particular how Service Cloud 2 (See: “Salesforce Cloudforce – Socializing and Servicing Customers in the Clouds“) is helping companies handle more customer interactions successfully by integrating customer information on a single desktop that is easy for customer service agents to access. The company is a primary driver of the cloud computing explosion and is profiting hugely from it.
But I have never commented on its 1/1/1 model. Put simply this states that 1 percent (or six days a year) of each employee’s paid time should be spent on community projects, 1 percent of revenue is spent on providing discounted licences to charitable organizations and 1 percent of stock is donated to support volunteer projects. Today I saw this policy in action. Here in the U.K. a charitable initiative was launched to help save Asian elephants, and salesforce.com people were out in force (sorry for the pun) to support the event. These people gave up copious amounts of time to help set up hundreds of model elephants around London, and the company contributed money to sponsor the event.
Of course there has to be a technology angle to its involvement, and salesforce used force.com, its development platform, to create an online site that will enable supporters to register their support for the cause. I have learned from this event and by talking to customers that force.com is bringing a major change to the IT industry. Of course, other vendors are moving their applications to the cloud, and the trend overall is making applications more readily available to business users without some of the delays, risk and costs associated with deploying systems on-premises. But in business there will always be a need for special applications that meet special business needs. With a little training, force.com allows nontechnical people to develop applications and deploy them in a controlled environment, putting the power of computing where companies need it. Even some IT directors I have spoken to admit it is allowing them to revolutionize their IT architectures.
This is not to say that salesforce.com will fit every company’s requirements, and cloud computing might not fit them either. But the excitement about cloud computing has spilled over into the customer relationship space with the result that people are talking about “social CRM” and how social media sites are revolutionizing interactions with customers. It is not clear whether these sites will become new marketing and sales channels, but they are already the new channels for airing complaints. If a company builds a product wrong, handles customer calls badly, has a poorly functioning Web site or provides bad service, then very quickly the world is going to know about it, sometimes with disastrous consequences for the company. If they do nothing else, companies need to find out what customers are saying about them on social media sites and address the issues those customers are talking about.
To me customer relationships should be about making every customer interaction as positive as possible and delivering the best outcome for both the customer and the company. Salesforce.com has some services that help companies do this, and its 1/1/1 policy is making sure the company shows a very positive side to customers, partners and the community as a whole. What is your company doing to enhance the customer experience? And what are you giving back to your community? I would love to hear your views on both, and by the way if you happen to support conservation, as I do, please register your support for this latest initiative.
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Richard Snow – VP & Global Research Director