When Salesforce.com began in 1999 its stated intent was “to reinvent CRM in the cloud.” In 15 years, the company has achieved much more than that, having a major impact on the way IT systems are delivered: Large numbers of vendors have followed its example to provide cloud-based systems. It added a platform as a cloud – a software development environment in the cloud – to its portfolio, introduced an apps store where many vendors sell their products and services, moved into social and mobile computing, and expanded CRM in the cloud to marketing, sales and service clouds. And it continues to innovate in the fast-changing business software market.
I recently wrote about its move from being an application provider to being a platform provider. The Salesforce1 Platform enables organizations, the company claims, to connect all apps, devices and data, not just its own. The platform provides tools and APIs for integrating applications and running them on multiple devices, including mobile devices. Taking this a step further, Salesforce recently announced the Salesforce Customer Success Platform. Built on the Salesforce1 Platform it brings together the company’s sales, service, marketing, community and analytics applications to help organizations to engage with customers in what it terms “a whole new way.” As well as many existing core capabilities and enhancements to the Service, Sales and Marketing Clouds, this includes three new features: analytics, Salesforce1 Lightning and support for Microsoft Office.
Salesforce has long offered analytics, but part of the Customer Platform is Wave, its next-generation analytics cloud, which provides four key features:
- The platform can integrate any data from any source.
- Once it is set up, any user can build queries on any device without support from IT.
- The results can be visualized on any device, in formats applicable to individual users.
- The outcomes can be shared across an organization so employees can collaborate on any issues uncovered.
It is designed to be highly scalable to access and process very large volumes of any type of data, giving users a more complete view of all customer-related activities. Though at this time its pricing and availability can only be afforded by the largest of companies with a very expensive price to license the platform and then the tools on top of it. A more detailed analysis was done by our head of research that outlines the opportunity for advancing the need for not just better dashboards but analytics across Salesforce.
The second feature, Salesforce1 Lightning, is a set of tools that allows any type of user to build apps. It has drag-and-drop capabilities and uses components from the app store to make it simpler to build apps that can run on any device including smartphones and tablets. The process builder enables users to design process flows and convert them to apps that are displayed using the new Lightning user interface. The platform supports point-and-click integration with internal Salesforce data stores so that up-to-the minute data can be entered into any app, thus ensuring that decisions and actions are based on the most timely information.
In recognition of the installed base of business computing, Microsoft Office is now available inside Sales Cloud, Salesforce1 runs on Windows 8.1 mobile devices, and data in SharePoint2010, 2013 and Online can be accessed and use to populate business processes supported by the customer platform. Organizations using Microsoft Office will find it easier to combine these with Salesforce.com applications.
During a recent webinar on The Three Waves of Customer Engagement I spoke about the changes organizations view as being important to improve customer engagement; chief among them are to deploy collaboration systems to improve internal communications, to redesign the customer portal and to deploy internal and customer-facing mobile apps. In terms of systems, my benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement which finds priority for improving customer engagement which are collaboration (19%), customer portal (12%) and mobile applications for internal and customer use. In addition the research shows that the systems most organizations plan to deploy to support these aims are collaboration (which 27% plan to deploy in the next 24 months), mobile customer service apps (25%), multichannel analytics (24%), routing to the most qualified agent (23%) and a smart agent desktop (23%). The Customer Success Platform supports all of these capabilities as it includes a smart agent console as part of Service Cloud. Salesforce.com is one of the most innovative vendors in the customer experience market. If your organization is seeking to increase its success in customer engagement, I recommend evaluating Salesforce’s offerings and those of its partners; between them they support most of the capabilities to look for.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director