The busy part has ended for the moment. Here’s what you missed—or got from somebody else, I don’t mind. For those of you who might criticize me for cramming multiple updates into one post, too bad. I want to get these things off my plate, and they’re conceptually related.
1. Salesforce.com announced updates to Service Cloud, the award-winning customer service component for its SaaS business computing environment. It’s now called Service Cloud 2, based on changes to the way it all works as the integration with InStranet has progressed. Salesforce.com fans will be glad to know that the Twitter integration is available now for free download, and tentative dates have been attached to the other two components (the knowledge base and the crowdsourced customer service).
I will tell you it’s looking very good, and I stand by my assessment of Service Cloud’s potential in the first linked article. One of the key concepts Service Cloud is built on is that a great many customers turn to the Internet for help before (or instead of) asking the vendor, and building customer service around this is going to be big for Salesforce.com. The announcement, however, is very similar to what we saw in January—if there’s one thing I can regularly ding that company for, it’s the issuance of multiple press releases for what is essentially the same news. It’s more a journalistic quibble than a complaint about their business practices—the fact remains that Salesforce.com has become a billion-dollar concern by making sure nobody forgets what they’re up to.
2. RightNow signed an agreement to acquire HiveLive, the social networking platform vendor. I’ve met and spoken with HiveLive before (though not recently enough to have had any inkling of the buyout), and I’ve got to say this is potentially an excellent move by RightNow. Greg Gianforte’s Bozeman, MT-based RightNow has always been very strong in the customer service end of CRM, and the move to community-based help environments impacts that. HiveLive’s platform is highly customizable and capable, so if all goes well RightNow will have just what it needs to make itself the go-to provider of SaaS customer service, Web self-service, and e-commerce apps.
There are a number of ifs, of course. Buying technology isn’t the same as integrating it; I’m still waiting for the Salesnet acquisition from 2006 to bear visible fruit. And I can’t say for certain where the deal came from or where it’s going, because—unlike rival Salesforce.com—RightNow tends to be very closed-mouthed about its activities, and the company doesn’t make nearly enough regular noise for its own good. (This time it’s understandable though, because certain messages need to be held until the markets close.)
Caveats aside, I think it’s a good move. I am imagining the combined product and it’s awesome. Here’s hoping there’s something to see very soon, at least by the RightNow Summit this October.
[UPDATE 9/15/2009, noonish] Regardless of what I think about RightNow having slipped a bit in the industry’s perception, the company is still doing right by its customers; Three of its implementations won Gartner/1to1 enterprise CRM awards today. Congratulations to RightNow, iRobot, Distance Minnesota, and National Cable Networks. See the release here.
3. I spent Wednesday afternoon at the live component of an Acxiom Webinar, which you can view here. David Daniels of Forrester Research was the leadoff speaker, giving a great talk about the relevancy of the messages and channels businesses use to engage customers. He was followed by Chriss Marriott, Acxiom’s global managing director and vice president, who presented his ideas on “Winning Elections in the Marketing Democracy,” a clever way of discussing the use of social CRM for marketing. It was a pretty low-key session, but informative and even inspiring. If you need a primer on the ROI of social media in marketing, you could do worse than watch the recording. David and Chris are both very engaging speakers, and the day provided me some new ideas on how to open discussions.