Salesforce.com on Thursday rolled out its next-generation solution for customer service. Dubbed Service Cloud, the new software is built on the Force.com platform and leverages the benefits of cloud computing.
Service Cloud will capture customer-service conversations with the goal of empowering companies to leverage the expertise of partner sites, which include cloud platforms like Google, Facebook and Amazon.com, to customers, agents and partners, regardless of location or device.
The company says its latest innovation represents the future of customer service, where more than two-thirds of all service conversations will take place in the cloud. If Service Cloud performs as Salesforce.com describes, it could keep customer service consistent across every channel.
"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."
A New Customer-Service Model
Contact-center technologies traditionally have been removed from the experts and knowledge found in the cloud. Yet, according to salesforce.com, 50 percent of all service conversations are already taking place in the cloud.
Salesforce.com said the Service Cloud is vying to create a new model for customer service by joining two disconnected worlds. The Service Cloud captures and funnels information from inside the enterprise and in the cloud into the knowledge base.
The Service Cloud is made up of seven main components around the knowledge base to gather, distill and disseminate the expert knowledge found in the cloud to customers, agents and partners. Those components are community, social, search, partners, phone, e-mail and chat.
According to Gartner analyst Michael Maoz, the new generation of consumers trusts content created by peers. "This consumer expectation that they can create answers and content as part of a community will lead businesses and other organizations to adopt similar techniques to succeed," he said. "Ultimately, organizations will have to change their singular emphasis on tools for agents to a broader strategy that also supports the role of community experts."
From Social Networking to Storage
Facebook is fully on board with the concept. Elliot Schrage, vice president of communications and public policy and platform marketing at Facebook, noted how people are increasingly connected with organizations and products through the trusted friends and communities of experts that are part of their online social network.
"Organizations need a powerful way to become part of the conversations about their products, and we believe Force.com for Facebook and Facebook Pages enable companies to engage with customers on a more personal level," Schrage said.
But it's not just technology companies getting on board with the idea. Extra Space Storage, a self-storage company, is also on board with the Service Cloud. Extra Space CIO Bill Hoban appreciates the cloud-computing vision for customer service.
"Customers are already sharing knowledge and having meaningful support conversations in the cloud with their community of friends and experts," Hoban said. "Salesforce.com will allow us to join the conversation with this expert community to improve the way we serve our customers."
Service Cloud packages start at $995 per month, which includes the ability to create an online customer community with unlimited usage for up to 250 customers, set up a contact center with up to five agents, connect with native cloud-computing sites like Facebook and Google, and invite up to five partners to participate in the service cloud.