NEW YORK - Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff headlined an event at Manhattan's Time Warner Center designed to highlight both his company's new partnership with Cisco Systems and new additions to its Service Cloud 2 platform.
"The most thrilling thing with moving to the cloud isn't just applications...but platforms themselves," Benioff told a ballroom of analysts, customers and media on Oct. 5. "Over the next 10 years, you'll see us drive strongly to show the next great thing is cloud computing."
The partnership between Salesforce.com and Cisco will see the Cisco Unified Communications platform brought into Service Cloud 2, allowing SMBs (small and midsize businesses) to run their customer-service operations entirely from the cloud.
Cisco Unified Communications offers functionality such as intelligent contact routing, call treatment and network-to-desktop computer telephony integration (CTI) over IP infrastructure. Combined with Cisco's Collaboration Solutions, companies can integrate inbound and outbound calls with real-time chat, Web collaboration and e-mail.
That will be joined with Service Cloud 2 as their primary agent desktop, allowing customer-service personnel access to Salesforce.com capabilities such as knowledge bases and social-networking feeds. Salesforce.com was also using the presentation to announce "five-minute upgrades," which give customers read-only access to their data during planned maintenance windows, except for a five-minute cutover time.
By strategically utilizing Salesforce.com's real-time, fully mirrored data centers, Salesforce.com has managed to radically reduce the time needed for system upgrades and updates. During the presentation, Benioff touted how his company's 63,200 clients were handled by 1,500 servers spread across three locations worldwide-an example of what he called efficiency, "possible because of multitenant shared systems."
The combined Cisco and Salesforce.com solution will be available in the first quarter of calendar year 2010, with both Cisco and Salesforce.com offering it for sale.
Service Cloud 2 includes three new features that leverage SAAS (software-as-a-service) capabilities.
The first, called Salesforce Knowledge, is designed to spare customer-service personnel from needing to access a knowledge base stored on another piece of software, by integrating an automatically upgradable, Google-accessible knowledge base into the Salesforce.com platform. The knowledge base, customizable for specific company use, is designed to save those personnel valuable seconds when trying to find knowledge that can be used to solve a customer issue.
The second feature, Salesforce Answers, attempts to bring crowd-sourcing into the Salesforce.com ecosystem. With this application in place, an enterprise or SMB can create a customizable database where they can post questions and other data, and collect information from the community in response. That information is then filtered through a company's knowledge base, allowing it to respond to future situations on a more expedited basis.
The third one, Salesforce for Twitter, integrates Twitter into the service cloud to provide real-time information from the social-networking service. By allowing customer-service personnel to "Search Twitter for Service Issues," via a tab in the dashboard, users can view public conversations about a product and send messages-i.e., "tweets"-about particular service issues. Service agents can also post messages to the Twitter community, and use a Twitter Support Channel to create a problem case within Service Cloud that can be routed to the appropriate company representative.
Despite debates over whether social-networking tools are truly effective within a corporate context, Salesforce.com has dedicated itself toward integrating Facebook and Twitter into its dashboard.