Salesforce.com announced ServiceCloud earlier this month, billed as a "next generation platform for customer service," allowing companies to monitor and tap into customer conversations all over the web - i.e., Facebook, community blogs, message boards, twitter, etc.
It's an excellent innovation, and important on several dimensions:
- For companies, it's a badly needed interface to a social web that consumers are increasingly turning to discuss products and companies, a structured way of integrating traditional CRM and ad hoc initiatives on platforms like Twitter. It's also an opportunity to create a better experience, better brand, and stronger net promoters cores by delivering a new level of proactive customer support.
- For consumers, it offers a new opportunity to be heard and helped in their preferred avenue, and not forced through the company's preferred CS channels and painful 800 numbers, and reflects a shift in the balance of power from company to consumer.
Alistair Croll has written a good article at GigaOM, pointing to the importance of community monitoring beyond support, and pointing to how ServiceCloud (note: not SupportCloud) will ultimately impact social selling and social marketing.
Fred Wilson describes his vision for social media as
My vision is that corporate participation in social media will evolve in tandem, as companies seek to
With ServiceCloud, Salesforce has offered the first corporate platform that can logically support the full range (support, sales, marketing, recruiting, etc) of conversations in social media.
Bottom line: a major new player in corporate social networking and social media, with potentially large consequences for startups hoping to sell to corporations like GetSatisfaction, Twitter, etc.