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3/25/2011
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Social Media Is Changing CRM

Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels are changing the way companies interact with customers, says Alex Dayon, executive VP of customer relationship management at Salesforce.com.

Customer service features for social media are on the way for Salesforce.com customers, but they can't come soon enough. The features for tighter integration with Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels Salesforce previewed as part of its Service Cloud 3 announcement earlier this month are eagerly awaited, said Alex Dayon, executive vice president of customer relationship management at Salesforce.com.

"We have regular meetings of our major customers for the customer service product, what we call our customer service executive council, and we've been asking them about social media: Is it really something strategic now? Is it just hype? Or is it 12 months, 18 months down to road? And the answer is always -- yesterday," Dayon said in an interview. Though a social media presence is usually launched by the marketing department, it invariably attracts some fraction of unhappy customers whose complaints need to be addressed by the customer service organization.

The Service Cloud 3 edition of the Salesforce customer service application is available now, with better integration with Twitter and Facebook to roll out over the next few months. Salesforce also is working in partnership with social media monitoring and engagement service Radian6 on an add-on product, to be available in the AppExchange marketplace, that will connect with many more social media channels.

Dayon was previously president and CEO of InStranet, which Salesforce acquired in 2008 for its customer service knowledge base technology. In this Q&A, he discussed the evolution of the Salesforce product line being driven by social media trends. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Carr: How does social media fit into customer service, as compared with the call center?

Dayon: The call center, while still an important part of the business process, is just one component today. That's where lies the opportunity for vendors like Salesforce. The traditional vendors -- Siebel, SAP, Microsoft -- have their software powering the screen of a call center agent. Most of those products are really focused on the phone. But the world of customer service is being changed by two big other areas. The first one is the Web, how you interact with people on your Web site. The other big area is the social world.

Today, do you start with the phone, or do you Google your question? You Google it, right? You may find your answer in the knowledge base article on the Web site -- that could be somebody else's Web site, too. So the world of customer service now is really one where you need to connect all those different channels together. The majority of the interactions are actually outside the traditional channels of customer service.

That's why we have created native connectors for Twitter and for Facebook, and why we have Radian 6 building connectors to more than 75 types of social media, including blogs. Some of those people posting may be unhappy customers, and we want to know about that. The Radian 6 app will help us with capturing 100s of millions of post a day and figuring out what makes sense to highlight out of that vast sea of discussion.

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