Saleforce.com puts on a marketing event that no other software vendor can come close to. Any CEO that can get MC Hammer rapping about your company as an introduction to your keynote has to be admired. The actual content got mixed reviews; my colleague Mark Smith saw some shortfalls in how Salesforce.com supports analytics, while Robert Kugel felt the company’s cloud-based software could help midsize companies.
I wasn’t able to attend, but from what I saw the event was similar, though on a bigger scale, to the company’s U.K. event not so many months back. Salesforce.com’s main message has moved from “the cloud” to “social.” As far as Salesforce.com is concerned, everyone, every company, every thing has gone social, and if companies that haven’t done so as yet don’t follow suit then they will struggle to survive. My recent benchmark research into customer feedback management shows this might not be quite as true as Salesforce.com would have you believe, but social tools certainly have an impact on how companies collaborate internally and how they engage with customers.
Alongside the main keynotes, there were several sessions that illustrated that Saleforce.com is not standing still and has been investing in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Chatter and its development platform, Force.com. In addition the company made announcements around Marketing Cloud (although I am sure I heard those in London) and Work.com, which means that Salesforce.com has pretty much got the enterprise covered.
What interests me most are Service Cloud and Desk.com, which seems to me very much the poor relation. However, both fill a critical hole as companies try to improve customer engagement and the customer experience. All my recent benchmark projects leave me in no doubt that customer engagement (service) is now a multi-media challenge that includes social media. Companies now support an average of four or five channels through which they interact with customers. Having a view of those interactions, and other related customer information, is critical to resolving customer issues, providing excellent experiences and keeping customers loyal so they buy more. Cut away all the hype and this is what both Service Cloud and Desk.com do, and companies should see them in that light. By themselves they do not constitute a contact center in the cloud, as they don’t do the tricky bit of managing how interactions are received and delivered. However, Salesforce.com has several partners that do this, such as Five9, Genesys, Interactive Intelligence, LiveOps, NewVoiceMedia and Vocalcom. By using products in combination companies really can get a grip on customer interaction management and the customer experience.
One final takeaway: Personally, I like it when Salesforce soft-sells products and services through case studies. I find companies are still tentative about moving to the cloud, and hearing about other companies that have “been there, done that and been successful” will go some way to overcome those fears. Like Rob, I think it a little sad that Salesforce.com concentrates on large or high-profile companies to illustrate its successes, as the cloud opens up the same opportunities for small and midsize companies too.
In a relatively short space of time Salesforce.com has grown into a major global corporation. It has finally gotten companies to accept sourcing its products off-premises. It has products and partners that supply all manner of products; enough to support most organizations. It has made us all think social. What comes next? All we can say for sure is that no company, whether vendor or end user, can ignore Salesforce.com, and we can only wonder what the next Dreamforce will be like.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director