I recently wrote that Salesforce.com was a vendor to watch during 2013, and during a recent briefing I heard more messages that support this view. First there was confirmation about financials. Even though the company is only 14 years old and the overall economy is not exactly booming, revenues for 2012 were up 35 percent to $3.05 billion, with Europe matching this with a 37 percent year-on-year growth. This not only shows the company is here to stay, but that the cloud is now well and truly established as a delivery model.
In the same post I said Salesforce intended to push harder as a platform provider, tying companies even more into working with it. These efforts seem to be paying off, as I learned more companies are committing to more of the complete platform rather than to individual products. In response to the ever-increasing demand from customers to access systems and organizations on the move, Salesforce announced new mobile features in Service Cloud that support both internal collaboration and collaboration with customers. Service Cloud Touch allows mobile agents, or indeed any mobile employees, to collaborate with anyone handling an interaction to try and ensure the best experience and business outcome. Customers can now chat with agents from their smart mobile devices to help resolve issues, customers and agents can now co-browse websites, and there are additional features that extend cloud communities so customers can connect with experts regardless of the location of either party.
It was during the second half of the briefing that the biggest surprise occurred. I, and the rest of the world, have become familiar with Salesforce.com’s drive to create the “social enterprise,” a concept that has never sat comfortably with me. In a subtle but for me significant move, the company has shifted the message to how to become a “customer company.” Salesforce says companies are disconnected with their customers and other channels to market, including partners. The common theme is that too many companies focus on internal processes and metrics and don’t focus on the customer. The Salesforce answer is to connect with customers in a different way – engage through multiple channels, listen to customers through multiple channels, service customer anywhere, sell as a team, create social communities, stay connected with partners, join up products and services, and support customers accessing information anywhere via smart mobile apps. This aligns more closely with my concept of the “collaborative enterprise” and much of the thinking behind my recent post about the 2.0 world. For me it brings the Salesforce messaging more into the real world. The Salesforce platform supports many of the capabilities to enable this different way of connecting with customers, though companies still face major challenges cleaning up their enterprise-wide customer data and linking any given transaction, say a phone call, to the customer that just tweeted about the company.
The new messaging ties in nicely with the insights I discovered in my recent research into the agent desktop. It shows the top goal for companies is to enable customers to communicate through multiple channels, and that highly customer-centric companies have deployed systems to enable anyone handling interactions to collaborate in resolving customers’ issues. As I highlighted in my 2.0 world post, a practical way for companies to meet these goals is to deploy a smart desktop system that makes life easier for anyone involved in customer-facing activities. Salesforce might not market it that way, but such a desktop is at the core of Service Cloud, so it is one of the potential ways companies can support their efforts to become more customer-centric.
I am not as convinced as many commentators that “the customer is king,” but I do know that the 2.0 customer is making life more difficult for companies. Staying connected and employing collaboration are two ways companies can meet customers’ expectations. Once more Salesforce is leading the way in supporting companies meeting these new demands.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director