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Salesforce.com Launches The Service Cloud, A Customer Service SaaS Application

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These days, when I have  technical question, I reach for Google long before customer service. What if customer service could reach for Google?

Salesforce.com just launched a new customer service application called Service Cloud. The new application, built on a SaaS model, tries to capture the crowdsourced pools of knowledge floating across the internet and use them for commercial customer service.

Traditional on-premise contact center technology is disconnected from the experts and knowledge found in the cloud. Yet so many customer service questions are already answered online in forums, Facebook, Google, Amazon, or others. Or the answers are sitting on your personal Instant Messaging history, e-mail history, or corporate intranet.

The Service Cloud includes plugins to each of these environments. (See screenshots.)

“The Service Cloud is the first customer service solution that empowers companies to join and manage all service conversations happening in the cloud,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of salesforce.com. “This has been made possible through the emergence of native cloud computing platforms like Force.com that are built to harness the power of other clouds like Facebook, Google, and Amazon.com.”

Here are the major components:

  1. Online communities–talk with the company and with other customers.
  2. Connections to existing social networks and the blogosphere–funnel existing knowledge into a company’s knowledge base.
  3. SEO–make sure your company’s community shows up high when I reach for Google.
  4. Sharing with business partners–the cloud makes it easy to share portions of your knowledge base with partnered companies.
  5. Contact center technology–give your customer service agents access to this knowledge base.

It’s certainly an interesting idea. I trust my friends to not only know technical answers, but also to tailor their explanations to my competence level. If that knowledge could be captured and systematized, it could save a lot of money on call centers.

But don’t expect miracles. Unlike CRM, customer service is a much squishier problem. In theory, capturing the knowledge in the cloud sounds great. And it’s easy to suck in via RSS, API’s, and the like. It’s much more difficult to sort and quickly regurgitate for my specific problem.

For an enterprise looking to retool their customer service system, moving to the cloud makes sense. The SEO benefits alone might be worth it.


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