CEO Marc Benioff introduces a Facebook tool and social-network tracking capabilities as part of Service Cloud 3.
Most of these capabilities -- the integration of social-network comments into the Service Cloud, the filtering, the outbound delivery of responses back into the social network -- are not entirely new. They have been part of a Salesforce for Twitter application introduced in late 2009. That these capabilities are now available for Facebook is significant given that it's the larger social network.
Service Cloud 3 also delivers a new Service Cloud Console designed to handle social network interaction. A tabbed interface manages all social media and case activities, with filtering and drill-down capabilities. The new console also delivers dashboards and reports on social network (as well as phone- and e-mail-based) service issues. And when service responses (through whatever medium) are shown to resolve common customer problems or complaints, agents can commit those answers to a knowledge base so they can be shared for future cases and self-service consumption by customers.
Salesforce painted its CRM competitors as stuck in the 1-800 world during today's presentation while Service Cloud 3 was described as built for today's unprecedented volume and velocity of very public comments. Chatter adds a collaborative element, enabling agents to search profiles and find best experts and recommended documents to resolve questions and service problems.
Saleforce.com is following, rather than leading, the drive to listen and respond to social networks. Sentiment analysis applications have been around for years now from the likes of specialists like Attensity and Clarabridge, and mainstream BI/analytics vendors including SAS, SAP and IBM have been developing apps and services as well.
Salesforce.com's Facebook and Twitter "listening" capabilities are basic, consisting of simplistic keyword searching and business rules. For more sophisticated text-analysis capabilities, Salesforce announced today that it is developing Radian6 for Salesforce, an AppExchange app with a more sophisticated understanding of language.
Working from within the Service Cloud, agents will also be able to use the Radian6 app to go beyond Facebook and Twitter, consolidating comments from more than 80 prominent social networks and blogs. The app also promises customizable, rules-engine-driven workflows and automation, but it won't be available until the third quarter.
Today's largely incremental news details were really a small part of a much grander presentation. Benioff and his team reviewed many of Salesforce.com's acquisitions over the last year, including Jigsaw with its data-cleansing and data-matching capabilities, Heroku with its Ruby on Rails development options, and Live Agent with its ability to break into Web sessions to offer live assistance. Saleforce also used every opportunity to show off iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android mobile delivery options with live demonstrations across sales, service and HR applications.
In short, today's news wasn't huge, but Salesforce tells a compelling story, it runs slick events and it effectively presents itself as being at the epicenter of every fast-moving trend in consumer and enterprise technology. It's no wonder this is one of the IT industry's fastest-growing companies.