Can do service?

Exciting changes are underway in the world of Customer Relationship Management.  SAP and Oracle are both making big plays for a piece of the cloud with their Sales onDemand, Business ByDesign and CRM On Demand products which offer the benefits of cloud technology combined with the advantages of architectural consolidation for a number of potential customers.  Recognising the dominance of their on-premise solutions in the CRM space, it will be interesting to see how their cloud offerings evolve over time and how they go on to challenge the better known cloud vendors.

Talking of better known cloud vendors and in the wake of Dreamforce 2011, Jo Shipley, a Senior Consultant in our UK Marketing, Sales and Service practice takes a deep dive into and with a specific focus on whether a ‘Sales’force solution can also deliver service.

Evidence from Forrester suggests that does have a service offering and that this is a growing priority for the company.  Not only do they have it, but their current offering is already rated 2/20 when compared to competitors and 1/20 for strategy.  Based on my own project experiences, this is not a surprise to me:

a) provides functionality suitable for service

If we assume features such as case creation, approval workflow, entitlement verification, search,telephony, email and chat integration are all pre-requisites for a service solution then is definitely in the running.  Where things become more interesting though is the additional value-add features where Salesforce’s reputation for innovation helps the organisation stand out from the crowd:

  • Out of the box analytics which are meaningful, easy to configure and provide real-time and historic data to aid operational decision making
  • Customer portals and user communities that encourage self service and reduce the cost to serve
  • Chatter, using design principles we know and love from Twitter and Facebook to allow colleagues to collaborate on cases in real time, ultimately speeding up case closure times
  • Social media monitoring (offered through the acquisition of Radian6 earlier this year)  to provide customer service across increasingly important social channels such as Twitter and Facebook,  and to support agents to provide a more personalised experience based on social profiles.

b)’s  AppExchange reinforces their service capabilities

Where Salesforce can’t natively provide a solution, they’ve harnessed the power of the world wide web to provide a variety of Applications from partner organisations easily downloadable at the click of a button from their Appexchange site.

In regards to service, Salesforce can be considered to lag behind some competitors in the areas of field service and parts but their ServiceMax offering, made available through the AppExchange, goes a long way to address this.  With products including work order management, inventory and parts logistics, advanced scheduling and workforce optimisation Salesforce customers can now benefit from a much richer service offering.  What’s even better is that as the service landscape continues to evolve, Salesforce customers will have the variety offered by a myriad of partner organisations and aren’t constrained by the release schedules of a single company.

c) The organisation’s culture of innovation bodes well for future growth in the service space

Forbes recently rated the most innovative organisation in the world based on a specially calculated Innovation Premium (incidentally Amazon were second and Apple were fifth).  An organisation that’s constantly striving to stay at the top of their game and that delivers three or more major functional releases per year can only be a good thing for their customers, whether those customers are paying for the sales or service offering.  Based on this record I’m pretty confident that what Salesforce lacks today in the space of customer service, they will resolve in the not too distant future.

So, coming back to answer my original question, -I believe that Salesforce can do service, and customer organisations taking them at face or name value, risk disregarding them without due reason.  As always though, the individual requirements and value drivers of a project should drive the vendor selection decision to ensure benefits are realised.  And with lots of other vendors in the space (e.g. RightNow who are known for their service-centricity, Microsoft Dynamics, Pega Systems, SAP’s and Oracle’s on/off premise solutions) it really is a buyer’s market.