When the Salesforce.com marketing machine rolls into town, you have to sit up and listen, and that’s what 14,000 attendees did at the latest Cloudforce event in London. The company took over a vast portion of the ExCel London Exhibition Centre to accommodate the keynote speech, lots of side events and meeting rooms and an expo floor where attendees could see demonstrations of every product and service, including many from partners showing what they have to offer.
Salesforce COO George Hu took over the keynote this year, with the aid of a few other executives and client representatives discussing customer successes. His approach was refreshing, not just because it was done in the round and Hu went walking through the audience, but especially because he didn’t subject us to two hours of product pitches, but he got across the message that companies large and small are using its products to support many facets of their businesses, and they are being successful. We didn’t get lots of direct messages about product and service developments, but the audience cannot have gone away without seeing that Salesforce clients have solved sales, customer service, marketing, HR, social media and other business issues using its products. The companies showed various innovations in the use of Chatter, collaboration, social media and social media analytics. Customers discussed how they used development tools available through Force.com to create applications and integrate Salesforce products into their systems architectures. Other vendors are reluctant to even mention competitors; Hu highlighted cases of integration with SAP and Oracle, making the point that companies with these products don’t have to throw them out but can build them into their architecture going forward.
Throughout the session there was one overriding message, that companies have to go social or risk failure. People have changed the ways they live, work, rest and play, and many seem unable to live without mobile devices and access to the Internet. They do it all online: socialize, search for information and buy products, and communicate and voice opinions through social media. If companies don’t keep up with these trends, they will lose out. However, I am not a fan of Salesforce’s touting of the “social enterprise”; in a work environment, talking about the collaborative enterprise makes more sense. My research on customer relationship maturity shows that companies can no longer work effectively as a collection of disparate business units because customers interact with almost every business unit, through many communication channels. Companies therefore need to integrate these channels, collaborate across business units and have one source of customer information if they are going to satisfy customers and get more issues resolved at the first attempt.
Service Cloud is the primary product Salesforce presents to improve customer service. It is difficult to define where Service Cloud sits in the products I cover, since it is not CRM nor a fully fledged contact center, but includes customer analytics and social media and collaboration capabilities. Service Cloud facilitates what I call customer experience management, as it enables customer service agents to access all the information they need about customers, including past multimedia interactions, to help resolve their issues, and can provide these capabilities to anyone handling customer interactions. It is a key component of a contact center and was shown being used in conjunction with some partner products on display in the expo from companies such as LiveOps, NewVoiceMedia and Vocalcom, which provide what is commonly termed communications in the cloud and other components of a contact center.
Cloudforce London was a busy day for everyone who attended, and I know I missed some news: about Rypple that my colleague has already covered and desk.com, and announcements around Salesforce’s entry into marketing and instant messaging. Please keep collaborating as I work to catch up and I will keep you posted on how Salesforce and its partners continue to innovate.
Richard Snow – VP & Research Director