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1/31/2012
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Salesforce.com Delivers Big Service Smarts For SMBs

New Desk.com help desk and customer service application offers social and mobile capabilities, in a simple, low-cost alternative to Salesforce.com's Service Cloud application.

10 Important Cloud Apps For SMBs
10 Important Cloud Apps For SMBs
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Salesforce.com launched Desk.com on Tuesday, a cloud-delivered help desk and customer-support application aimed specifically at small and midsize businesses.

Where Salesforce.com's existing Service Cloud application starts at $65 per user, per month and is geared to midsize and large organizations, Desk.com starts at $49 per user, per month, and is aimed squarely at firms with 200 or fewer employees that don't have IT departments and may not even have full-time customer-service staff.

The new service is based on services formerly provided by Assistly, a company Salesforce.com acquired in September for $50 million. But Desk.com is a significant upgrade that incorporates social and mobile capabilities.

Desk.com taps into an organization's Facebook page and Twitter presence with a few clicks and treats them as an equal customer-support channel right alongside conventional phone, email, and self-service support options. There's also an all-new HTML5-based Desk.com Mobile app that supports both Apple iOS and Android devices.

[ Want more on Salesforce.com's social vision? Read Salesforce.com Steps Past CRM, Into Social Marketing. ]

Desk.com is described as a help desk application, yet it's said to be optimized for external-customer support rather than internal-employee technical support (the activity many associate with the term "help desk"). This was the predominant usage pattern for Assistly users, who have been migrated to Desk.com, according to Alex Bard, formerly CEO of Assistly and now general manager of the Desk.com business unit at Salesforce.com.

"The phrase 'help desk' has evolved as companies have experienced a massive influx of support challenges from social and mobile customers," said Bard in an interview with InformationWeek. "That same pressure exists at the low end of the market, except they don't have the same tools, processes, and resources to be able to address the demand."

Desk.com is designed to be easy to configure and launch over a weekend through a series of wizard-driven interactions, according to Bard. Setup is a matter of pointing Facebook and Twitter accounts, email addresses, phone numbers, and other customer contact points at the service. Employee, departments, profiles, and skills are also set up so service cases can be referred and escalated to the appropriate employee. You can also add knowledge-base content and link the case-management log to Salesforce.com CRM database.

Salesforce.com's Service Cloud is the company's fastest-growing application and has more than 17,000 customers. But it includes many customization and workflow capabilities that small firms don't need, according to Bard. For example, midsize and larger organizations often have multiple employees involved in an approval process for knowledge-base content, including employees who script customer response, others who translate the responses into multiple languages, and still others who approve and revise service scripts.

Desk.com users are unlikely to have such needs. There's no hard-and-fast boundary between small-business and enterprise-level needs, Bard said, so some departments of larger businesses might use Desk.com even as small businesses with sophisticated service needs might need the customization and worflow capabilities of the Salesforce.com Service Cloud application.

The first Desk.com seat is available at no charge. Each additional seat is $49 per-named user, per month. Because small organizations often don't have clearly defined customer-support roles, Salesforce.com also offers a Flex pricing mode in which any employee can use Desk.com or the Desk.com Mobile app for $1 per part-time agent, per hour.

The mobile app, in particular, makes it convenient for any employee to be a customer-service or support employee, even if they're handling several other duties in far-flung locations. No need for the giant room filled with contact-center cubicles.

As enterprises ramp up cloud adoption, service-level agreements play a major role in ensuring quality enterprise application performance. Follow our four-step process to ensure providers live up to their end of the deal. It's all in our Cloud SLA report. (Free registration required.)

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