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Salesforce Communities Shakes up Customer Service

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Posted May 2, 2013 By Pedro Hernandez     Feedback

Salesforce is signaling the end of old-school customer forums with a social offering that pulls customer interactions directly into Chatter.

Salesforce officially launched Communities today, a service that according to the company ends "the era of legacy portal software."

Explosive mobile device adoption and the advent of social media have created new paradigms in customer service and support, asserts Anna Rosenman, senior product marketing manager for Salesforce Chatter. Whereas diners once let restaurant guides determine their eating choices, now they consult Yelp from their smartphones or tablets. And after a meal, they aren't shy about sharing their experiences with the community at large.

It's a lesson businesses should not just heed, but profit from, Rosenman says.

Companies that established -- and continue to cling to -- their own, siloed forums and other feedback and support mechanisms are neglecting these customers. "Companies were losing out on opportunities to sell," Rosenman says.

Taking Customer Experience to Next Level

The answer to that challenge starts by asking a question, she says. "What if you can connect your business data?" It's that theme, in part, that helped guide the development of Salesforce Communities.

Communities is an offering that essentially erases the barriers between businesses, partners and customers by pulling their social interactions into a common CRM platform. Businesses can use the tool to create communities around themselves, products and partner organizations. They can also integrate Communities into their mobile apps.

In an online demonstration, Rosenman showed how a simple inquiry from a consumer can ripple across an organization's sales and support operations to enhance the customer experience and potentially improve sales.

Using his iPhone, a customer sent a request for more information about an upcoming product to the company's community. A company representative was able to quickly and satisfactorily answer the question directly from within Chatter, Salesforce's timeline-like social sharing and collaboration feature. Moreover, Salesforce surfaces top trends and themes, providing sales, marketing and customer support personnel with insights into customer issues and the market's reactions to their products.

Finally, in a process largely hidden from consumers, the company was able to score a bigger shipment to a distributor linked by Salesforce, based on not only the strength of the "chatter" surrounding the highly anticipated product, but also on visualizations of hard sales data generated by the platform.

Ultimately, Communities' frictionless way of sharing, surfacing and quantifying social interactions is part of how Salesforce is "helping all of our customers become customer companies," said Rosenman.

First previewed in August, Salesforce expects to complete its public rollout of Communities this summer. Pricing starts at $500 per month.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Enterprise Apps Today and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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