Salesforce.com's Next Billion-Dollar Move?
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Having locked up a large chunk of the sales side of the market with its on-demand CRM service, Salesforce.com is taking aim at what it thinks will bring in its next billion dollars in revenue, customer service management.
Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) announced Service Cloud 2 on Thursday, an upgrade to its customer service management offering that operates in conjunction with its customer relationship management (CRM) software.
The company's founder and CEO Marc Benioff, never shy with his opinions on the software-as-a-service market and model, seemed especially animated over this new market.
"A lot of people think of sales force automation when they think of Salesforce.com. That was the Trojan horse for how it got into their organization. The service cloud is the next step to go beyond just managing their sales opportunities to managing their customer. This is a huge market," Benioff said at a launch event here.
The CEO said he thinks customer service management will drive Salesforce.com to the next $1 billion in revenue because of the size of the market, and the fact it's "innovation stagnant" with technology more than a decade old. "These customers think what they have is state of the art and don't realize it's time for them to go to another level of technology."
Of course, that meant a chance to take a dig at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) and SAP, his three favorite whipping boys.
"Major vendors are just not talking about their next generation of customer service centers. They are trying to hold customers back in old client/server systems and soaking them for 22 percent on maintenance contracts on these old datacenters. Customers can save millions of dollars moving to this next-generation technology," said Benioff.
The first knowledge base for cloud computing?
The bravado was followed by product details. Service Cloud 2 adds three major new features: Salesforce Knowledge, Salesforce Answers, and Salesforce for Twitter.
Salesforce Knowledge, built on technology Salesforce acquired last year when it bought InStranet, is being billed AS "knowledge-as-a-service" technology and the world's first knowledge base for cloud computing. It is knowledge base similar to what customer service representatives would use but is accessible from the Internet.
Not only are answers available for call center employees, they can also be made publicly-facing, meaning search engine crawlers from Google, Yahoo and other search engines can find that information. So if a person wants to know, for example, how to perform a memory upgrade on their PC, they can find it in Google rather than call a PC vendor's call center.
Salesforce Answers builds on the in-house knowledge of articles that a vendor has and draws upon the knowledge of the Internet community. Alex Dayon, senior vice president of product management at Salesforce, noted that the "long tail of knowledge" means only 20 percent of knowledge on a product can be found in knowledge bases while the other 80 percent is in Internet communities.
These include LinkedIn Answers, which has 46 million members, and Yahoo Answers, which gets 27 million visitors per month. The question is how to utilize that for answering customer questions. Salesforce Answers lets customer service reps tap into these online communities and social networking sites to find even more useful information.
Finally, there's Salesforce for Twitter, which helps companies perform real-time support. The idea is that when you send a Tweet requesting help, the needed information is retrieved from a knowledge base, and a link to that information sent back to the Twitter network, all automatically.
The Service Cloud's knowledge base is $50 per person, per month. It will be available in the fourth quarter. Benioff said more upgrades to the Salesforce network will be announced at its annual Dreamforce conference, set for mid-November.