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For SMBs, Salesforce Launches Mobile Social Customer Support

For SMBs, Salesforce Launches Mobile Social Customer Support
By Barry Levine

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Salesforce.com said that, according to its data, nearly three-quarters of small businesses use mobile applications in their daily operations. With Salesforce's Desk.com, SMBs can use a help desk that integrates social networks, e-mail, phone and other Web components, making social networks into what Salesforce described as "first-class citizens."
 


A mobile customer service desk for small- to medium-size businesses. That's the idea behind Desk.com, a new cloud-based customer service product from Salesforce.com.

Announced Tuesday, Desk.com allows any business to interact with customers on any major social network, via a mobile device. The company said in a statement that the service is "so simple that any company, even one without an IT staff, can get up and running over a weekend."

'First-Class Citizens'

With nearly a quarter of all time spent online being spent on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, Salesforce.com has become a leader in integrating social networks into its customer service offerings.

The company envisions a scenario such as a customer posting a critical comment on Facebook about its newly purchased widget. While a desktop-based customer service worker for the widget maker might be the first stop for responding to the comment, the actual resolution might be better handled by a technical service person, who could be out in the field.

With Desk.com, that ticket can then be picked up by the technical service employee, and resolved via a mobile device. The ticket can be reassigned, have its status or priority changed, or have its customer information modified.

Salesforce said that, according to its data, nearly three-quarters of small businesses use mobile applications in their daily operations. With Desk.com, SMBs can use a help desk that integrates social networks, e-mail, phone and other Web components, making social networks into what the company described as "first-class citizens along with traditional support channels."

Hourly for 'Casual' Reps

Desk.com runs on any smartphone that supports HTML 5, such as Android-based devices and Apple's iPhone. Reporting includes information on how many cases customer service agents have opened, resolved, replied to, reassigned, or reopened, and a dozen pre-built reports offer such data as handling time, time to first response, and first contact resolution rate.

Salesforce has priced the offering to appeal to SMBs. The first seat is free, and then it's $49 per agent per month. There's also an hourly model for what the company calls "casual" customer support reps, at $1 per hour.

Desk.com is based on the technology that Salesforce.com obtained when it purchased social customer service startup Assistly last fall. Assistly's product allowed companies to organize customer conversations on social networks into a to-do list, and provided tools for support staff to respond, see customer histories, automate procedures and produce analytical reports.

Social, Mobile, Simple

In our interview with Alex Bard, vice president and general manager of Desk.com, Bard explained that Salesforce's Service Cloud, a key part of its "social enterprise" efforts, had previously been optimized for the mid-market and large enterprises, but Desk.com is extending the cloud toward the lower end of the market.

Bard said that, in researching smaller companies' needs, Salesforce "kept hearing three things -- it has to be social at its core, it needs to be mobile, and it needs to be simple." He added that thousands of Assistly customers have been moved to Desk.com, and the response has been "overwhelmingly positive."

Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Corp., said Desk.com represents "the ultimate in the consumerization of IT, and a recognition of how we're no longer tethered to an office with a traditional PC."

She noted that Salesforce made "a pretty quick turnaround" in readying Assistly for the new product launch, adding that the model of customer support from virtually any mobile device "will absolutely become a standard."
 

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