Richard Snow's Analyst Perspectives Advances Customer Interaction

Posted by Richard Snow on Aug 2, 2012 10:53:08 AM

Since it was founded in 1999, has been driving other vendors and end-user organizations to rethink how they supply and purchase software. The company has grown from being a supplier of CRM in the cloud to a vendor with diverse offerings that include a development platform, an app exchange, platforms that support marketing, sales and customer service, knowledge management, desktop technology, collaboration, website development, social media support and analytics. Along the way it has also become a powerful marketing machine – which sometimes gets in the way of understanding just what its products do and don’t do, and where they all fit. This obfuscation also extends to its extensive range of partners, where again it is sometimes hard to know who it deals with and how.

The situation is particularly true for the contact center. The company’s marketing message would have us believe that plays in the contact center market, but it has partners – CiscoInteractive IntelligenceLiveOpsNewVoiceMedia and Vocalcom to name a few – that are better recognized as providers of contact center systems. As a result I have been a little skeptical of salesforce’s marketing messages and have urged organizations to take care to learn just what the company has to offer in this space. But as I learn more and spot new trends in the market, I see beginning to play a bigger part in customer interaction-handling, multimedia customer service and customer experience management.

My recent research into customer relationship maturity has led to me to these conclusions:

  • Organizations have to provide multimedia customer service.
  • They have to support more channels of communication, including social media.
  • Interactions are being handled across the organization, including by home and mobile workers, so companies need to support employee collaboration and mobility.
  • Consumer use of social media has gone crazy, so companies have to develop sound social media strategies and move beyond using it mostly for marketing, and thus just having a Twitter handle, a Facebook page and a few YouTube videos. Most importantly, they have to understand what consumers are saying about them on social media so they can respond appropriately.
  • The growing use of tablets and smartphones means companies have to consider providing mobile customer service apps.

Considering that my research into contact centers in the cloud shows that companies see moving to the cloud as the answer to these challenges, we can see that salesforce has a portfolio of products that meet most of these requirements. The desktop in Service Cloud allows agents to view the information they need to resolve multimedia customer interactions. Service Cloud includes CTI and call-routing capabilities to get interactions to the right people to handle them. While doesn’t support CTI, it allows agents to access the information they need to handle interactions. Chatter supports collaboration both internally and with customers. Heroku allows companies to build social and mobile apps. Radian6 provides insights into what consumers are saying on social media and supports companies taking action based on what they see. allows companies to manage their customer data and enhance it so they have a fuller picture of their customers – a point often overlooked by organizations, but our research into customer relationship maturity shows that the lack of a single source of high-quality data and a single shared set of customer-related reports and analysis are two of the main barriers preventing companies from providing excellent customer service and experiences.

Recently I received updates on Service Cloud and that uncovered lots of new developments – too many to cover in detail – which, as highlighted above, extend salesforce further into interaction and customer experience management. During my discussions with the company, one of my objectives was to better understand the differences between the desktop at the heart of Service Cloud and Functionally they are similar, but as mentioned above, does not support CTI. The big difference is the target markets: is aimed at the small enterprise (100 to 200 users) and Service Cloud is aimed at the midsize to very large enterprise. What the company lacks in a contact center in the cloud is what is now popularly called communications in the cloud – managing all the bits and bytes of sending and receiving interactions – and what we call agent performance management – managing the time and activities of people who handle interactions. But has partners that cover both of these areas, and as it brings its internal offerings more tightly together and integrates them with its partners’, it can help organizations innovative in the way they handle customer interactions.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Topics:, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Data Management, Customer Experience, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, LiveOps, NewVoicemedia, Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, Call Center, Cisco, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Vocalcom

Richard Snow

Written by Richard Snow

Richard leads Ventana Research’s Customer and Contact Center Performance Management research practice, which is dedicated to helping organizations improve the efficiency and effectiveness of managing their customers, throughout their lifetime and across all touch points, including the contact center. He conducts research exploring the people, process, information and technology issues behind customer operations management, contact center management, and customer experience management. He also works with senior business operations and IT managers to ensure that companies get the best performance from today’s highly complex application products. Richard has worked in management and consulting leadership positions in the technology industry including with Price Waterhouse, Sema Group and Valors. In his work, he has been involved with all aspects of delivering highly complex IT solutions to a variety of clients in the telecommunications, financial services and public sectors. Richard has specialized in delivering customer care and billing solutions for telecommunications operators, and several multi-channel contact centers for organizations in both the public and private sectors.