Salesforce Community Cloud: A LinkedIn-Like Service for Business
claims it has just defined the next customer engagement battleground. The CRM platform rolled out Salesforce1 Community Cloud with a big promise: companies can create “trusted destinations” for employees, customers and partners that work kind of like LinkedIn.
What justifies the LinkedIn comparison? Salesforce1 Community Cloud is both personalized and mobile like the business networking giant. But it goes a step farther and connects to enterprise business processes. Over 2,000 active communities have gone live since Salesforce rolled out the solution about a year ago.
Why Salesforce1 Community Cloud now? Because of the increasingly connected world. As Salesforce sees it, millions of new products, apps and devices are connecting to the Internet every day -- and there’s a customer behind each one of them. To demonstrate demand for its new solution, the company points to an IBM study that reveals over 75 percent of C-level executives want to know their customers better and are doubling down on digital engagement.
Lisa Hammitt, Vice President, Strategy and Operations at Salesforce Communities, told us she’s seen a number of different technologies attempt to solve the customer engagement challenge in the past.
“Salesforce Communities is the first to provide fully mobile capabilities with social infrastructure all tethered to a CRM business process, out of the box,” she said. “This greatly reduces the friction of accessing a community and allows our customers to stand up a community in days, not months. It is not about social for social sake, it is social within the context of the way you work."
A $3.5 Billion Market
Community Cloud thrusts Salesforce.com into what IDC deems will be a $3.5 billion enterprise collaboration market by 2018. The company already has an impressive client roster for its latest innovation.
“Any company can benefit from creating an engaged community,” said Vanessa Thompson, Research Director of Enterprise Collaboration and Social Solutions at IDC. “Salesforce.com raises awareness of the immense value of community solutions with Salesforce1 Community Cloud by putting business processes at the center of engagement.”
With Salesforce1 Community Cloud, companies can create personalized communities that let members follow topics and people. As an example, Salesforce offers runners the ability to personalize their community experiences to get the latest news on shoes and trails.
Community Cloud is also mobile. Admins and community managers can track trending topics, update files and monitor content from the Salesforce1 mobile app. And Salesforce is also promising speed. The company said an admin can quickly create a self-service community for a specific group of customers based on the needs of that audience.
Deloitte Digital -- and its 4,000 consultants -- is among the organizations that is tapping into Community Cloud. Deloitte Digital recently launched a practice to help customers build digital communities. British Sky Broadcasting, Cornell University, GE Capital, Honeywell, Key Bank, Pearson, Pono Music, State of Colorado, Tata Communications and Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College are also leveraging Community Cloud to connect with customers.
“The Community Cloud represents an important moment in the industry, ushering in new lattice-like business models for how people work, how they engage their customers, and how they connect,” said Cathy Benko, Vice Chairman and Managing Principal at Deloitte Consulting.
We caught up with Brad Shimmin, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, to get his take on the new cloud. He told us the Salesforce’s CRM customer base will find plenty of opportunities to pull together the workflow that exists between customer and provider -- whether it’s setting up a support call, lodging a complaint, inquiring about a new service or just connecting with other customers to voice opinion or ask a question.
“These communities that surround a given brand are extremely valuable so I can see a great benefit to their CRM customer base, particularly because this takes great advantage of their platform-as-a-service,” Shimmin said. “As a large customer you can customize or build whatever functionality is going to be most appropriate for this community cloud.”
Salesforce1 Community Cloud starts at $500 a month. It is currently available with new advances expected to be generally available in October of 2014.