Salesforce.com put on a fancy lunch spread at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco this afternoon to celebrate the launch of its Service Cloud 2 upgrade, and Twitter was invited. But I already blogged that... so I was more interested in what the cloud computing and social media bigwigs had to say about customer service. And they didn't disappoint.
Salesforce.com put on a fancy lunch spread at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco this afternoon to celebrate the launch of its Service Cloud 2 upgrade, and Twitter was invited. But I already blogged that... so I was more interested in what the cloud computing and social media bigwigs had to say about customer service. And they didn't disappoint.In his classic confrontatinal style, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff began by charging that existing customer-service technology is a decade old, and that leading vendors like Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, and Siebel are "soaking" their customers while keeping them locked into systems that haven't seen any innovation -- even as "customer behavior has changed around customer service." Customers with issues "may not be picking up the phone any more" in favor of other vehicles, Benioff said, vehicles that may not have been invented when companies installed their customer service systems.
Benioff added that the Service Cloud has garnered 8,000 customers -- up from 6,500 in January -- out of more than 63,000 Salesforce.com customers overall.
Those numbers don't seem all that outstanding to me, but I don't think it's Salesforce's fault. I think the real issue is that while most companies care deeply about sales -- thus Salesforce's success with CRM -- customer service remains an afterthought -- albeit a $4 billion afterthought.
Unbelievably, Salesforce.com once again trotted out Comcast as an icon of customer support. The cable company may be innovative in its use of Twitter, but it remains scorned by its own customers as well as the general public.
More the point, even Salesforce.com's cloud-based customer service comes down to having a clueless rep search articles about something he doesn't really understand and then parrot that back to the customer. No matter how good the knowledge base is, a knowledgable person is what customers really want.
Unless they can get action instead. A (perhaps apocryphal) story told by Twitter board member Jason Goldman made the stakes clear:
"A customer waiting in the lobby of a Las Vegas hotel was tweeting that the line is long and service seems bad. A competitor hotel monitoring the Twitter feed sends out a tweet saying 'Sorry you're having a bad experience, but why don't you come down here and we'll give you a better rate and a free dinner."
I don't know if the story is real, or if the customer took the hotel up on the offer, but that kind of real-time customer service could be a powerful competitive weapon. Frankly, customers can Google social networks pretty much as easily as the customer service rep can. Actual knowledge, or better yet, action, is what will make a difference to customers.
Twitter's Jason Goldman was on stage with Salesforce.com's Marc Benioff to laud the Service Cloud 2 as "one of the best examples of taking what's already happening -- customers asking questions on Twitter -- and integrating it into a company's business processes."Salesforce.com's Marc Benioff and Twitter's Jason Goldman discuss the power of social media in customer service.
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