Most people on popular microblogging site Twitter (which just turned three) have probably seen customer service-type queries from other users — questions about how to make a product work, or complaints that it’s broken. I have even posted some complaints of my own. That’s one of the reasons companies like Google have created their own Twitter accounts, and its why Salesforce.com is adding Twitter integration to its customer service product, which it calls the Service Cloud.
As described to me by Alexandre Dayon, Salesforce’s Senior Vice President of Product Management, the core insight behind the Service Cloud is the fact that customer service has become decentralized and spread throughout the web. If customers need answers, they’re no longer calling into the company for help. They may not even be logging into the company’s customer service website. Instead, they’re looking on Google, on their social networks, and on other websites. The Service Cloud allows companies to use their Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) accounts to find customer service queries across the web, to track them, and to capture those questions and answers for use elsewhere.
The Service Cloud officially launched in January, and there are now 6,800 companies using Salesforce to provide customer service, Dayon says. But there’s been one overwhelming request since the launch: adding Twitter. That integration will be available this summer, and judging from the demo I saw on Friday, it’s pretty powerful. Let’s say you’re a mobile phone manufacturer, for example. Within Salesforce, you’ll be able to search for any relevant “tweets” — for example, complaints about a broken phone — track any responses, and then use the company’s Twitter account to respond yourself. Of course, you can already do all of those things within Twitter, but this makes the process more convenient, and, more importantly, allows you to capture that information and respond, all within a single application, one that lets you perform similar tasks on Facebook and elsewhere.
There are plenty of other customer service options out there, such as Get Satisfaction, which gives customers more power in controlling the customer service process, and Jive Software, which integrates your internal and external collaboration (such as customer service) into a single dashboard. But Salesforce’s emphasis on managing a process that’s become scattered throughout the web is smart, and the Twitter integration (which will be added without extra charge to the Service Cloud package) is a necessary addition.
I probably won’t answer your customer service questions, but you can find me on Twitter here along with fellow VentureBeatniks Eric Eldon, Dean Takahashi, MG Siegler, Camille Ricketts, Dan Kaplan and Matt Marshall. We have a VentureBeat account (for our posts) as well.