Salesforce.com Bringing Apple’s FaceTime to the Contact Center
Last night Salesforce.com announced version 3.0 of its ServiceCloud product. Today at the Cloudforce event in New York City CEO Marc Benioff revealed more about the new version. Most importantly, ServiceCloud is transforming into a unified communications system for customer support by integrating VOIP and video conferencing technologies – including Apple’s FaceTime. Benioff didn’t specify, but it’s possible some of the new features were built using technology from Salesforce.com ‘sacquired of DimDim earlier this year.
How will the ability to contact customer support via FaceTime change the behavior of both the customer and the agent? Face to face video customer support could be a game changer.
R “Ray” Wang, the principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research, says connecting the contact center to mobile devices can open many new use cases for companies. For example, insurance customers could file claims live and on the spot using camera phones.
IT failure expert Michael Krigsman of Asuret reminds us not to get too carried away. “These innovations will require process changes for service providers, which will take time,” he says. “We saw the future, but reality will take time to catch up.”
“Whether it’s for customer or employee communication, I’ve written before that voice, video, conferencing and virtual meetings are front and center to how organizations look at collaboration,” says Sameer Patel of the Sovos Group. He notes that these areas are often ignored by enterprise collaboration startups because it’s difficult and expensive to offer these sorts of services.
“But if we can’t coherently unify these traditional modes of communication with newer social and collaborative constructs, you cannot effectively serve the customer on her terms,” Patel says. “Whilst she might prefer to engage on Facebook, she most certainly wants to know that she can talk to a human at the speed of a click.”
In addition to its traditional large competitors – Oracle, Microsoft and SAP – Salesforce.com is increasingly in competition with Cisco. Cisco is branching into the social media monitoring field with SocialMiner, and it is also building what can be considered a next-generation contact center, Finesse. Both companies are now pushing video. Salesforce.com may be branching into Web conferencing with its DimDim acquisition, which would bring it into competition with Cisco’s WebEx. Meanwhile, both companies have social collaboration tools in the form of Salesforce.com Chatter and Cisco Quad. However, Salesforce.com is also working with Cisco by integrating Cisco VOIP into ServiceCloud.
And of course, all of this push for mobile video brushes up against the ongoing mobile bandwidth problem we wrote about yesterday.
Also of note, ServiceCloud is upping its social media monitoring and analytics features with Salesforce.com for Facebook, Salesforce.com for Twitter and Radian6 for Salesforce.com.
Benioff promised that Force.com, Salesforce.com’s development platform, will support more languages in the future. Force.com currently supports Java, Ruby (via its Heroku acquisition) and its own Apex language. “At the end of the day middleware does matter,” says Wang. He says Force.com is the linchpin of Salesforce.com’s success.