Customer Relationship Experience: The Strategy Behind Salesforce Sites
Posted by Bob Warfield on November 3, 2008
The big announcement at Dreamforce this year is Sites. At the simplest level, Sites brings the ability for companies to have Salesforce.com host their corporate web sites. On the face of it, that sounds pretty tame, almost a flash back to the oldest of cloud computing directions: web hosting. There is more to it, of course. As Ben Worthen reports from the WSJ, this makes it easy for companies to develop applications to connect their users to back office applications such as Salesforce.com’s CRM/SFA flagship. Bernard Lunn thinks the timing is right to attract a lot of developers to the platform because of this proposition.
Salesforce has sweetened Sites and Force.com further by tying into both Facebook and Amazon Web Services, making it possible to build hybrid applications that span all three platforms. The combination of these outwardly facing applications and the connections with other Cloud platforms is causing some like TechCrunchIT to speculate that the announcement means closer ties with Microsoft and Google. While Salesforce is already pretty close to Google, they’ve kept their distance from Microsoft. Will they support Silverlight and Mesh in this new framework? Time will tell.
But is this announcement, as an article in CNet implies, simply about making it easier for customers to deal with the infrastructure needs of a modern web site? Is it really about quick and easy mashups between Salesforce applications and your web site?
Actually, there is a lot greater potential than is being discussed. Salesforce has a shot at getting control of what I call the “Customer Relationship Experience.” We’ve all heard about CRM or Customer Relationship Management. CRE is related, but what is it?
It’s related to the term “User Experience” that is commonly used to describe an interaction with software. Great User Experience can be a major contributor to commercial success. We all know Apple has built a number of fabulous franchises around User Experience, and no software company ever wants to be know for software that is hard to use or has a bad Use Experience.
Relate that back to your customers. Customer Relationship Experience is the sum of experiences that go into creating a relationship between a business and its customers. In the Web Millenium, it is at least as important as User Experience. Over time that Customer Relationship Experience will have more and more to do with a company’s web presence.
Now let’s take that perspective and consider what it means to bring the corporate web site onto the same platform as the corporate CRM system. Are you beginning to see the potential of a high quality integration between these two? Imagine if your CRM system absolutely knows all about every one of your customers, and about every interaction they have have had with your corporate web site since before they were even customers. Is it beginning to make more sense? Consider the implications for improving your sales efficacy and really driving home that single point of contact 360 degree view of the customer that CRM vendors have always talked about but never delivered.
In fact, through Sites, Salesforce is creating a ready channel and test bed for a whole range of new application modules that will be powerful and compelling. Tomorrow I’ll post about some of the work we’re doing at Helpstream that dovetails nicely with this view of the world and brings even more power to the CRM system.