Salesforce says the Internet of Things is now part of customer relationship management. That's because no company is going to escape finding some pieces of its relationships with customers captured by the activities of machines and devices, both manned and unmanned.
And if that's the case, Salesforce customers may need a place to capture machine and automatic system data, analyze it, and take action from the conclusions that that the analysis recommends. That's why Salesforce announced its Internet of Things Cloud to go with its Sales, Service, Marketing, Community, Analytics, and Force.com clouds.
"It's hard to see how any industry isn't going to have its customer experience affected by applications, by website interactions, by device interactions. The day will come when it's part of the customer relationship for every Salesforce customer," predicted Adam Gross, COO of Salesforce's Heroku cloud unit, in an interview at Dreamforce in San Francisco on Tuesday, Sept. 15.
This will certainly be the case for a company such as GE as it tracks its customers' experience with its jet engines. But it will be equally true of the customer experience that has no ties to heavy-duty industry or maintaining long-life hardware.
The customer relationship Internet of Things may collect customer data off of social media, store it, and make it available when the service representative is about to field a service call and needs to know what the customer has been tweeting or complaining about. In effect, more and more Internet of Things data will come from the soft interactions of software systems as customers try to interact with companies.
[Want to learn more about how Salesforce gathers CRM data for analysis? See Salesforce Expands Wave Analytics Platform Capabilities.]
The IoT Cloud will be an online service like Salesforce's other clouds and will include data ingestion, capture, sorting, and event processing. It will include the Thunder real-time event-processing engine, which can scrutinize sequences of software events, looking for a pattern that means a customer is about to make a purchase, close a deal, or perhaps leave the company for a competitor.
Thunder can accept streaming events in real time and "listen" to the connected world, ingesting billions of events a day from different sources.
IoT Cloud's capabilities include:
- Connecting phones, wearables, and other devices to Salesforce, along with feedback from websites and running applications. The IoT will bring more customer context to transactional data.
- Triggering actions for rules that a company wants to apply to its customers. Business users of the IoT interface can use point-and-click tools to define and set rules and logic that will be triggered by customer actions if they appear somewhere across Salesforce. Gross gave the example of a fleet manager setting a rule for "hard brakes" or "hard accelerations" and relying on the data streamed into his Salesforce IoT Cloud to tell him when customers were violating those rules. The same indicators could be used to log possible instances of erratic driving that an insurer might wish to evaluate on his IoT Cloud. A national retailer could set rules for a holiday sale based on shopper loyalty program status. As the shopper moves through a store, his presence would be noted and loyalty status checked via the Internet of Things, which could trigger an in-store beacon to make a discount offer on the spot, said Gross.
- Bringing more information to the Salesforce platform, where it can be subject to the Analytics Cloud. Conclusions flowing out of Analytics analysis can trigger more personalized sales, marketing, service, and other actions that are part of the business. For example, a vehicle service program can collect sensor data on a vehicle's fluids then send an offer that brings the vehicle owner to the dealer for service.
The IoT Cloud will also include the open source Apache Kafka distributed publish and subscribe messaging system.
"The IoT Cloud is designed for the business user who needs to consider taking actions from the data," said Gross.
"The IoT Cloud will allow businesses to create real-time 1:1, proactive actions for sales, service, marketing, or any other business process, delivering a new kind of customer success," said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce, in the announcement Sept. 15.
Salesforce said the IoT Cloud is in a limited pilot, will be in a selected customer pilot in the first half of 2016, and then generally available in the second half of 2016.