Salesforce.com announced an update today to Desk.com, their customer service product aimed at small businesses. They have created a Desk.com app store called the App Hub that includes a bunch of partner apps chosen specifically for SMBs to give them a one-stop shop for the cloud applications they need –and they have created a way to integrate those apps directly into Desk.com.
Among the partners are well known products such as Jira for issue tracking, MailChimp for email newsletter management, Olark to record desktop chats and more –including of course, the core Salesforce.com CRM product. The update includes access to all of these tools in one central place and makes use of what they are calling the ‘Desk.com Canvas’ to install these external packages and incorporate them into the Desk.com application.
So if you are talking to a customer, you should be able to see if they have any outstanding help tickets in Jira or which newsletters they subscribe to in MailChimp or their customer record in Salesforce, all from within the Desk.com interface without having to switch between applications and keep several different windows open. It also saves the customer service rep from conducting a number of different customer searches across these applications to find the needed information related to the customer. If it works according to plan, this should save considerable time spent with each customer.
Leyla Seka, who is SVP and GM for Desk.com, and who spent the last 8 years running the Salesforce AppExchange, knows a thing or two about how business app stores work, which is very likely the reason she was chosen to lead this effort on Desk.com. She makes it clear that this is a set of curated applications for small businesses, and you shouldn’t expect people will build applications for the App Hub, the way they have for the AppExchange. She said that they didn’t want to reinvent the wheel and make a mini AppExchange. They already have that. They wanted to create a place for small business people to access, incorporate and make use of a set of popular applications from within Desk.com.
Desk.com App Hub integration also includes telephony tools such as RingCentral, enabling small businesses to answer telephone calls from within Desk.com if they wish. Many small businesses stick to Web support, but this gives them ability to add phone support when they are ready to do so without having to upgrade to Service Cloud, the customer service tool for larger businesses.
She added that they have also made it easier to move Desk.com data to Service Cloud whenever a company is ready to do that. She explained there is no clear point when companies switch over and it’s different for each one, but eventually many outgrow Desk.com and require a higher level of customization that they can get with Service Cloud. Salesforce is trying to improve the transition between the two products.
This approach certainly has potential, assuming small business users are using Desk.com. There are several alternatives including Freshdesk and Zendesk, but what Salesforce is trying to do here is make the Desk.com option more attractive by including the integration with other popular small business apps.
This approach could help attract new customers (and keep existing ones), but it all hinges on how well the integration works and how easily you can select and incorporate the partner apps into Desk.com because small business owners are busy people and often lack technical help on staff.