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Updated: Social CRM on the agenda at RightNow and Salesforce.com

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9th Sep 2009
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CRM's convergence with social networking technologies comes to the fore as RightNow and Salesforce.com make further developments in the social arena.

The convergence of social networking technologies with CRM came to the fore this week as Salesforce.com pushed its integration with Facebook and Twitter for customer services, while RightNow made a surprise takeover bid for a social networking firm.

While Salesforce.com's social media announcements were further confirmation of a long standing strategy, RightNow's $6 million takeover of online research community business HiveLive came out of the blue. HiveLive started raising angel funding in 2006. It offers prebuilt communities for customer support, engagement and loyalty, which can be tailored to suit specific client needs.

It claims its system makes it easy to establish internal social networks using simple building blocks, which it calls hives. In addition to internal information management, the technology can be used for marketing purposes. In addition to a raft of startups in this space, it’s also competing with established enterprise software firms, which are beginning to move into this area.

“Today we have taken another step forward in our mission to rid the world of bad experiences,” said RightNow CEO Greg Gianforte. “Our clients and prospects are clamouring for more social web functionality. With the addition of HiveLive, we meet all the customer experience needs of consumer-focused organisations today, with market-leading e-service capabilities, a robust contact centre solution, and now an innovative social platform. It is that unmatched combination of customer experience and social expertise that gives us a much expanded opportunity to provide even more value to our clients.”

HiveLive integration will be demonstrated at RightNow's user conference in Brighton in November. Gianforte said that with the HiveLive platform integrated with RightNow's core offering, companies will be able to easily:

  • Implement prebuilt communities for customer support, engagement and loyalty, and ideation
  • Configure these communities for unique business needs
  • Incorporate forums, blogs, ideation, question and answer dialogues, media sharing and more
  • Integrate customer generated content into the RightNow knowledge base

“HiveLive has gone far beyond traditional forum-based communities with a flexible platform that enables customer support, innovation, loyalty and lead generation,” commented David Vap, vice president of products at RightNow. “The platform can also help organisations very easily create their own unique, brand-specific consumer communities.”

Meanwhile, social networking is at the heart of the next iteration of Salesforce.com's Service Cloud. Service Cloud 2 comes with Salesforce for Twitter as a free-add-on for existing Salesforce.com customers, via the App Exchange. With Salesforce for Twitter, Salesforce.com customers of any size can manage and actively participate in ongoing Twitter onversations with their customers from within their existing CRM system. Incoming Twitter messages can be integrated into the existing CRM system as service tickets to enable customer service agents to use their existing tools to find answers for customers and address problems.

The company is also planning a push into the knowledge base area with the launch of Salesforce Knowledge while early next year it will launch Salesforce Answers, which will allow companies to build crowd-sourced knowledge directly into their knowledge bases and CRM systems. This, claims Salesforce.com, is the first such 'knowledge as a service' offering.

That claim was enough to outrage RightNow's Vap. " I just about fell out of my seat," he declared."The spin and half-truths is enough to force the engineer in me to write a blog post. When will the software industry start holding itself accountable to the levels of accuracy and truthfulness that every other industry is held to?

"RightNow introduced a powerful, patented, self-learning knowledge base, delivered as a service, in 1997. The RightNow knowledge base is not new; it has a track record of success. Leading consumer brands, such as Black & Decker, Electronic Arts, Nikon, Ben & Jerry’s and British Airways, have been using the RightNow knowledge base for years."

Vap added that maybe it was time to change tactics. "Maybe next week I can convince the RightNow marketing team to announce the first SFA solution for The Cloud," he suggested. "Do you think Salesforce would notice?"

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