Salesforce.com announced March 23 that it is adding Twitter to the Salesforce.com Service Cloud, a software-as-a-service solution begun in January that groups Google search, Facebook connections, online communities and discussion forums into a cloud-based customer service channel.
For the user, this means that the Service Cloud dashboard now offers a Twitter tab, which leads to a screen with a search bar under the title "Search Twitter for Service Issues." By typing a product name into the search bar, such as "x84 headset," the user can see whatever public conversations are occurring in real time via Twitter about the product.
Once the data from Twitter has been sucked into the Service Cloud, the user has additional options. A "monitor" tab allows an individual Twitter conversation thread to be followed within the Salesforce.com interface. The user can "tweet" the original conversation starter (send it as an instant message), post a message within the community or drill into the Salesforce.com database for an internal solution to an issue mentioned on Twitter, which can then be posted on Twitter.
For example, if someone writes on Twitter, "My x84 headset is broken," a service agent monitoring the Twitter feed in the Service Cloud can tweet the user and offer a fix. If the problem with the headset is a commonly recurring issue, the agent can pull up information from the database and send it to the entire community involved in the Twitter conversation thread.
As for Twitter being used as an enterprise customer service tool, "this is still the early days," Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst for Nucleus Research, said in an interview. "What is interesting is seeing which new channels of communication are becoming part of the whole communications cloud."
The cost of running a Salesforce.com Service Cloud starts at $995 per month; it allows users to create an online customer community with unlimited usage for up to 250 customers and a contact center with up to five agents, and connect with native cloud-computing sites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter, along with Facebook, YouTube and other social networks and applications, has been increasingly adopted for enterprise use, a fact that's led to much debate over whether these messaging and collaboration tools are truly effective for businesses.
Twitter announced on March 6 it is introducing a search feature on its main site that will allow users to search through conversation threads and monitor those trends generating the most tweets.