Salesforce.com has launched Desk.com, a customer help-desk dashboard that integrates Facebook and Twitter feeds alongside more traditional corporate channels such as email.
As with all Salesforce services, this newest one is cloud-based; subscriptions start at $49 per seat per month. The target audience is small to midsized businesses (SMBs) who heavily rely on Twitter and Facebook to field customer complaints and service queries. Google+ functionality might appear later, depending on that nascent social network's uptake among businesses.
"We talked to thousands of small and medium businesses," Alex Bard, vice president and general manager of Desk.com, told eWEEK in a Jan. 30 interview. As a collective, those businesses apparently wanted three things from their cloud-based help desk: a simple setup, a robust mobility element, and integration with social-networking Websites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Bard is the former CEO of Assistly, which Salesforce acquired in September 2011, and whose assets have been folded into the development of Desk.com. When a user signs into the service, they see a dashboard with the latest customer-service requests, each marked with an icon showing the source (Facebook, call service escalation, Twitter, email, and so on). "Now these small businesses don't need multiple tools," he said.
Users can open a customer's email and type a response (or have Desk.com automatically fill in an embedded response from the company knowledge base). Facebook and Twitter work in a similar fashion, only the user's reply posts to a social network instead of returning to the customer as an email. Those on the road can answer Desk.com queries via their mobile device, with the response appended to the case history.
Salesforce pushes social networking as its key differentiator over competitors such as Microsoft and Oracle. Previously, it also emphasized its cloud-based subscription services as superior to the on-premises offerings of other companies. However, as the latter turned increasingly to the cloud as a delivery method for their new products, it eroded Salesforce's uniqueness in that area.
In a bid to keep its competitive edge, Salesforce has engaged in a number of acquisitions and product launches. In November, it introduced its Social Marketing Cloud, which leverages social media to market and sell products to customers. In December it announced an agreement to buy human resources software-maker Rypple for an undisclosed amount.