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Salesforce Coins The "Service Cloud"

Salesforce.com says the best customer service is no longer provided by companies, but is found in the cloud. The company's Service Cloud will start to bring those avenues together, but there's still a long way to go.
Salesforce.com says the best customer service is no longer provided by companies, but is found in the cloud. The company's Service Cloud will start to bring those avenues together, but there's still a long way to go.The problem, explained Alex Dayan, senior VP of Salesforce.com and former CEO of InStranet, which Salesforce.com bought last year, is that although companies have spent billions of dollars on their customer service operation, their main goal was to cut costs, not improve service. Customer satisfaction has not risen, so "customers have found a way" to improve customer service on their own -- searching Google for experts or consulting with Facebook friends.

The idea behind the Service Cloud is to join the cloud in which you run your business to the larger cloud where customers discuss your company and products and share information and expertise about it.

The Service Cloud is designed to do that in several different ways:

  1. Help you create your own community, on your own site, with your own experts.
  2. Capture relevant customer conversations and knowledge on existing social networks -- specifially, Facebook -- and figure out which of that info is the most valuable.
  3. Make it easy to share the most useful information with your customers via a number of channels.
  4. Use the quality of that information to raise the Google search rankings of your community.
  5. Help your customer service agents learn from the wisdom of the cloud -- to make them as smart as the smartest experts.
  6. Share that information with your company's partners, so distributors, resellers, wholesalers, etc. all communicate the same, best-quality information.
  7. Put all of this information into the Salesforce.com dashboard, so you can instantly see what's going on.

salesfore-benioff Salesforce.com Marc Benioff introduces "the next generation of customer service, "The Service Cloud.

It's a great idea, and anything that can make customer service agents less clueless is a good thing. But this is only a small first step to making it a reality. And frankly, much of its value seems limited to companies big enough to be relevant in the wider cloud. Unless your company has a significant presence on Facebook, say, or enough traffic to build a vibrant community on your own site, the Service Cloud isn't going to generate a lot of new information for you. It was no surprise that the demo used Orange, a huge European mobile provider, as the example.

In addition, many of the places that the best conversations occur are not capturable by the system. For example, Facebook conversations are captured only if they occur in your company's Facebook apps. I'm not sure that's where the real dirt gets dished. Similarly, the Service Cloud doesn't yet scrape the various online forums where aficianodos often congregate -- and many of those forums are behind password barriers. Pricing starts at $995/month for 5 agents, 5 partners, and up to 250 user conversations.

NOTE: In a odd counterpoint to the current economic situation, the launch event took place over an excellent luncheon of rare filet mignon and two kinds of wine at San Francisco's swank Four Seasons Hotel -- but some of the overflow crowd was left standing and watching the rest of us dine. Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff joked about offering the standees McDonald's coupons.