Enterprises may be late adopters of social media, but today's announcement by Salesforce, along with related social media news from last week, shows that companies of all kinds will be able to scour the Web more effectively. Some will use it to obtain more data about the market, some will carefully scrutinize what customers are saying in order to identify risks and opportunities for brands, and Salesforce's Service Cloud customers will use it to deliver better customer service.
There's demand for customer service software because there's pain in the call center, said Alexandre Dayon, senior vice president of the customer service and support division at Salesforce. Customers no longer go to companies to solve problems because the existing tools prevent it. IVR is confusing, Web knowledge bases are filled with irrelevant information and e-mail takes too long.
So customers abandon the telephone and the corporate support infrastructure and go to Google, Facebook, Twitter and to community message boards to get their answers. Companies want to follow them to the Web, and some already have.
"We've been on Twitter since last April," said Comcast director of digital care Frank Eliason, who is participating in Salesforce's press and analyst day in New York today. He said that the company has a team of four people for social media and at least one of them is online at any time.
Eliason himself had 12,732 followers on Twitter and was following 13,516 at press time.
Salesforce said it's doing more than than put companies on Twitter. At the core of every Salesforce offering is a database, and in the case of Twitter, the database can store tweets, track threads, and even help agents deliver useful answers. If the agent cannot find an answer to a problem posed on Twitter, the database can help the agent track the thread and store the solution at the end of the thread, if one is found.
The ideal, said Kraig Swensrud, vice president of marketing at Salesforce, is that companies can now go to customers and find them where they are instead of expecting customers to come to them.
Companies will also scour the Web for risks to brands. They should integrate reputation risk management into the processes of their risk management software, says a recent report, Managing Reputation Risk and Reward from research firm The Conference Board. The report said that only 44 percent of executives interviewed use software to track their company's reputation, and that they are virtually ignoring social media: 33 percent of executives monitor social media sites and only 10 percent participate in them, the survey found.
The report added that employees should be encouraged to become a company's ambassadors, because "engaged employees are a company's greatest asset for establishing its credibility and enhancing its reputation with external stakeholders."
Clearly, that's exactly what Salesforce.com believes, and with Twitter and Facebook, it will help companies turn employees into ambassadors, although not all of them will have as many followers on Twitter as Eliason.
The Twitter add on is free to Service Cloud subscribers. Service Cloud subscriptions start at $995 per month for up to 250 customers and up to five agents.
This article was first published on InternetNews.com.