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? 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 “This has been made possible through the emergence of native cloud computing platforms like that are built to harness the power of other clouds like Facebook, Google, and”

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.

  • Korgo

    Very good yeah :)

  • honkin

    I like google app

  • EH

    I predict performance issues and growing pains. Wait, it’s not that kind of cloud. Seems they made up their own definition of “cloud” to mean “other peoples’ content.” Like, right now we’re all adding content (comments) to the “TechCrunch Cloud.”

    Wow, man. Innovative. I bet several stock trolls fall for it.

  • Dhruv Shah

    i have used Google Apps and i believe that is actual SaaS and called as cloud computing. still i will try this and check if we can have some benefit of this.

  • coldbrew

    The designer got carried away with the color blue and gradients, and went absolutely crazy for rounded corners. I hope there are templates.

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  • lubos

    user interface is terrible but shareholders will sure like it :-)

  • josh

    Forum support is great when you are willing to try things and read around. When that doesn’t work, I don’t want to call a company rep and have them suggest things they are reading from other forums. I would actually be pissed. I believe they should be experts on their own products and if they don’t have an answer, they will get back to me after looking into it, and actually testing it when conceivable.

    I think their lengthy descriptions sound pretty desperate;
    “3. SEO–make sure your company’s community shows up high when I reach for Google.”

    C’mon now. It’s hardly a problem finding a company’s website/support. It’s usually one of the top links on the site.

    • EH

      Yeah, but this one has “cloud” in it.

  • Relenta

    Utopia! Today there isn’t a way to capture conversations across all of the social networks and put them together in a meaningful fashion.

    Here’s a great 3rd party implementation of a distributed customer service app. Pure action instead of buzzwords and lofty visions:

    • josh

      Your post screamed “Spam” to me. Surely, no one really belts “Utopia!” as a greeting. I clicked and was nicely surprised. I like the overall design and concept. It’s a nice looking site, and I’m glad to see a lot of activity. The problem seems to be there were so many unanswered posts vs. answered. I would say it looks nicer than most of the forums/bbs that tech companies offer …but I don’t think it fundamentally offers more.

      As an end-user, I understand problems and solutions are often introduced informally. My worry is that if I want the latest/best solution (that won’t void my warranty) I would always check the producers site first.

      Best of luck.

  • Engago Team

    Will companies be able to implement this Service cloud?

    How to explain the ROI (Return On Investment) to your CEO, who has to sell this to the Board Of Directors?

    • EH

      Easy. You PR it as “cloud,” but you explain to investors that it’s really just a forum search engine, which is a concept that has been historically tested and has code readily available.

  • Jai Sharma

    Here’s a pretty good demo I found that explains it nicely…pretty powerful stuff…

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  • Chris

    Sun Microsystems bought Q-Layer last week in related news.

    Wall street is so wrong about Sun

    • Misery

      Chris, thanks for sharing your feelings with the group. You can sit down in your chair now. Yes, you can sit down now.

      Seriously, dude. WTF???

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  • courtney benson

    Please!!!!Spare me the pain and suffering of having to wait while someone from offshore central has me wait longer then I already do today. With this concept the offshore robots can put me on hold longer while they look up an answer to my problem that they don’t comprehend in the first place. If this is used only in the U.S. with techs who speak American English, I’m on board.

    • EH

      ChaCha was really ahead of its time!

  • peter chemisov

    This is pretty novel idea. It almost seems surreal that this type of technology exists right now. I am skeptical that it would actually be able to deliver what it promises. However, I am optimistic to experience this new-age customer service model.

    I see a different use for this technology. That is, how can it be used to address crisis situations. It would be able to dynamically track down ‘areas’ where issues are being reported and notify the correct executives. It could then put together an action plan based on some pre-determined scenario characteristics. I am absolutely impressed, nonetheless. thumbs up for

    • EH

      In other words, TechMeme + Twitter.

  • Sekhar Ravinutala

    Great effort, hope this takes off. We’ve been seeing this kind of stuff piecemeal (e.g., reviews on Amazon end up in a million places) and user comments are becoming a gold mine. Any corp that mines/organizes them will rule, and IMO Salesforce has what it takes.

  • ReadBetweenTheLines

    So in order for your company to get the same experience as they have in their demo video you just need the following:

    -Run salesforce for Sales/Support

    -Create a facebook application for your org and use the hooks to get data link to SFDC

    -Use salesforce for partner management AND make sure your partners run salesforce as well to manage their business

    -run Salesforce call center and knowledge base applications

    -implement the salesforce sites solution

    Seems pretty straight forward

    • EH

      Translation: make Salesforce your internet.

    • Sekhar Ravinutala

      If you’re a current Salesforce customer, only the Facebook app part is really extra, and even that only if you want to tap into that community.

      And sure, Salesforce want folks to switch to using them, but isn’t that any corp would want?

  • 华芳

    good , like DISO, all-in-one socail network

  • Mary Pascual

    Customers are getting more creative in where they post questions and comments, and I think web-based content aggregation is becoming more important. I’ve had a chance to use Helpstream, which provides similar capabilities and I’m really excited with what they are doing. Plus, they’re at a very affordable price.

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  • Luca F.

    I actually called Salesforce and their reps have no clue what this is about…

    sounds like an announcement, but where’s the real product?

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