Frank Eliason, a Comcast customer-service rep, has more than 13,000 followers on Twitter. In the coming weeks, he's going to help Salesforce.com figure out how to introduce corporate customer-service systems into the world of Twitter.
About a year ago, Eliason and his team of 10 reps, who primarily answered customer e-mails, began to seek out and help customers who were publicly blogging their criticisms and frustrations with Comcast. The team increasingly concentrated on Twitter and its millions of easily searchable microblogs.
Eliason's readiness to help solve Comcast customers' problems, while calmly ignoring the occasional insults thrown his way, soon made him somewhat of a personality among Twitter regulars. He's known as @comcastcares.
Then the media came calling, and in recent months, several newspapers, magazines, and television networks have profiled Eliason. His technique is to tentatively approach Twitterers critical of Comcast, rather than offer up advice that wasn't asked for. "I never thought I'd become famous on three words: Can I help?" Eliason said.
Now Salesforce wants Eliason's help. On Monday, it announced an add-on for Salesforce CRM that lets companies track and aggregate customer complaints on Twitter. Eliason and his team will be testing the offering, which is scheduled for general availability this summer. It's a perfect fit, since Comcast is already a customer of Salesforce CRM's Internet (a.k.a. "cloud")-based software services.
CRM for Twitter will include a dashboard for tracking and monitoring topics on Twitter, the replies to those topics, and whether customer issues were resolved, and it will alert customer-service reps to volume spikes on certain topics. The app will be integrated with Salesforce's Knowledge Base, which reps use to look up answers to customers' questions and problems.
Pricing will start at $995 a month for five agents and support for 250 customers. This isn't Salesforce's first social networking attempt: In January, it announced an app service that companies can set up to have customers come to them on Facebook (the searchable Twitter approach wouldn't work with Facebook, since users' "walls," where they would post comments, operate on an invitation-only basis).