salesforce.com's New Strategy: Profit From Facebook and Twitter

When salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM  ) introduced Service Cloud 3 at its Cloudforce customer conference in New York this week, it was tapping into a growing sense that social media matter more than the phone when it comes to customer service.

"Facebook and Twitter taught consumers to expect social customer service in real time," Executive Vice President Alex Dayon said in salesforce.com's press release.

He's right. Last year, researcher TextWise found that 4% of the 50 million tweets published daily were either product recommendations or complaints -- figuring an even split between results in 1 million complaints daily, or 360 million a year, just on Twitter.

Fast-forward to today. Facebook may already have more than 600 million users, and Twitter publishes more than 110 million tweets daily. These fast-growing services host a crushing number of customer complaints.

Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA  ) has responded to this truism by starting a Twitter feed called @ComcastCares. JetBlue Airways (Nasdaq: JBLU  ) takes a similar approach with its Twitter feed, while privately held GetSatisfaction.com brings customer chatter to Facebook fan pages. Service Cloud 3 is salesforce.com's response to the shift.

Service Cloud 3 is more formal. Every feature resembles what you'd find in popular contact center software. The difference is that it also integrates Twitter and Facebook mentions into the system, allowing agents to build a case around something as simple as a tweet. (Click here for product marketing chief Kraig Swensrud's live demo, which begins about seven minutes in.)

What's interesting to me as an investor is the way the system is integrated. Think about the last time you called a company to get service. How many times have you been handed to a different department and asked to resupply or reconfirm your information?

Too often, this is born of technical distinctions between the systems used by different departments. Customer and case data doesn't get passed along. By integrating everything in the cloud, salesforce.com has done away with this problem and in the process increased responsiveness.

Or at least that's how it went in Swensrud's demo. I'll grant that software that demos well doesn't always perform well, but given salesforce.com's exceptional fourth-quarter growth, I'm inclined to believe Service Cloud 3 is every bit as powerful as it looks.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about the Gmail outage, Google's acquisition strategy, and the features and foibles of cloud computing using the comments box below.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy forecasts partly cloudy skies and a chance of rain for this evening.


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