Here's a post that I composed as part of my day job at Opus Research.
Salesforce.com and Cisco Systems are partnering (collaborating?) to offer a new service called Customer Interaction Cloud. It is an instantiation of Cisco’s Unified Contact Center in Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud 2. The two companies tout it as the realization of their shared vision of “leveraging social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google” by moving resources into the cloud. More to the point, it is the realization of Cisco’s “platform as a service” approach to making the full capabilities of the Unified Contact Center for a predictable cost.
According to reports, the service is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2010, and will carry a monthly “per user” fee of $250. In this respect, the key sales points for moving to the cloud are cost savings (for maintenance and staffing), shorter downtime and deferred obsolescence (in that the software in the cloud tends to be the most recent versions). John Hernandez, General Manager of Cisco’s Customer Contact Business Unit laid out the the benefits and objectives of the partnership with Salesforce in this blog post.
Hernandez’ post makes Cisco’s objectives very clear. Cisco has conducted research that reveals that 50% of an overall base of “customers” (presumably those who interact with companies via contact centers or email) use social media (meaning Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc). Therefore a robust customer care strategy should recognize and integrate interactions over these social media. While Cisco and Salesforce.com position this approach as “collaboration”, there is nothing inherently collaborative about it. “Integrated” would be a more accurate term.
Inside Service Cloud 2, on the front-end modules to Cisco’s Unified Contact Center can support both “presence” and distribution of calls to “expert agents”. That’s a pretty basic function of IP-based enhanced routing. Integrated on the back end is Salesforce.com’s ability to to log customer interactions across multiple, social media (especially Twitter) for the likes of Comcast, as illustrated in this video.
“Social CRM” has become the term of art to describe the sort of customer interactions that the new approach supports. Is it collaboration? Not necessarily. But it is getting close