Anyone in the contact center or customer service space can’t help but notice that the big thing of the moment is what impact will social media have on customer service. This point was very much in evidence at the European launch of salesforce.com Service Cloud 2 that I attended this week. My colleague covered some of the basics of the announcements (See: “Salesforce.com Advances Customer Service in the Clouds”) and my review at the recent Call Center and Customer Management 2009 conference but I want to expand on the social media capabilities of Service Cloud 2.
The proliferation of people using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more business oriented sites like LinkedIn, both for personal and business reasons, has driven lots of vendors to see how they can integrate these sites into their contact center and customer service solutions. This advancement of social media with business was one of the business technology priorities in 2009 (See: “Business Collaboration and Networking – Priority for 2009”). The theory, and indeed practise, says that when people have a problem, as they become increasing frustrated by poor customer service from their suppliers, instead of calling the contact center or trying to use web-based self-service they go into Google and search for an answer. People more tuned into social media channels take this one step further and ask their friends, or indeed the world, whether anyone else out there has the same problem and whether they have a solution. By polling this wider base of knowledge, many find they indeed get the answer quicker than by contacting their original supplier. This of course changes the whole face of customer service.
With the launch of Service Cloud 2 salesforce.com has gone one step further than my last analysis (See: “salesforce.com brings New Cloud Computing Ecosystem to Europe and Internet”) and now allows companies to integrate social media sources into their end-to-end customer service processes. In simple terms, Service Cloud 2, brings all of a customer’s interactions into a single desktop that service agents can quickly access to help determine a solution to a caller’s query. This can include calls, e-mails, chat sessions, outputs from a customer portal, and text-based messages from social media sites. These and other data sources from systems such as ERP and CRM, are integrated in a knowledge base, and presented back to agents at the click of a mouse.
Service Cloud 2 takes this one step further. Having brought all these sources into a common knowledge base the information can be repurposed to support other channels of customer communication. For example a tweet can easily been turned into a knowledge item used to provide support on a customer portal, a tweet can be responded to by a company initiated tweet, email or outbound call, a tweet can be shared with partners and supplier; the combinations are pretty much endless. All of this is in the cloud so comes with all the normal benefits of cloud-based solutions.
These features set Salesforce apart but they will also need to look where to partner with other vendors that I have assessed such as Attensity, Overtone and IBM SPSS that have entered the social world. These vendors are focused on using their advanced text analytics technologies to analyse text-based interactions extracted from social media sites, thus helping companies gain insights into what their customers are saying about them. These valuable insights can be included in a company’s view of its customers, bringing the 360-degree view of the customer one step closer to reality.
In another announcement, Salesforce also has partnered with Cisco (See: "Cisco: Contact Centers and Cloud Computing with Salesforce.com"). The integration of the two products brings the “contact center in the cloud” one step closer to reality. Having been in the Contact Center market for 20 years, both as a systems integrator and analyst, I have see that contact centers remain pretty much the same as when I started out and budgets don’t stretch to buying many innovative solutions. As a result people, including me, are getting increasing fed-up with poor customer service, which is why we are turning to these social media channels. Smart companies need to wake up to this and start to take a look at how solutions like Service Cloud 2 can enable them to innovative their customer service. The use of cloud computing in customer service is part of what we at Ventana Research identified as a key business technology priority in 2009 (See: “Cloud Computing in Business and IT – Priority for 2009”).
Let me know your thoughts or come and collaborate with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Richard Snow - VP & Research Director