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Salesforce launches 'reimagined' customer-service, sales software

Salesforce launches 'reimagined' customer-service, sales software

A new study finds most Salesforce.com customers are planning to increase their investments in its products

Salesforce.com has given its customer-support and sales software new names and announced a slew of additional features in advance of its annual Dreamforce event, which kicks off next week in San Francisco.

Beyond generating early hype for its conference, the announcements reflect the new reality Salesforce.com and other business software vendors face as companies desire a mobile-first design approach for applications, along with more effective ways to serve their customers across multiple channels.

The support application is now dubbed Service Cloud1 -- naming that aligns with the company's Salesforce1 development platform.

New features include an overhauled customer-service agent console that provides easier access to information that might help representatives resolve a case or complaint. In fact, the system will intelligently push content it determines will be useful to agents, according to a statement.

Service Cloud1 now also offers "instant" self-service community websites companies can build for customers to get answers about products and services. The emphasis is on speedy development of these sites, allowing companies to move quickly when they sense demand for information about a given product will spike.

Salesforce.com is introducing Desk Connect, an integration tool that ties its Desk.com customer service app for small and medium-sized businesses to its main CRM (customer relationship management) software. The idea here is also to give such companies an eventual migration path to the full-blown Service Cloud1.

Finally, Salesforce highlighted a previously announced product, SOS, that is similar to Amazon's Mayday button for its Kindle Fire HDX tablets. SOS gives companies the ability to embed a help button inside their apps that launches an audio-video chat session with an agent. First announced in April, SOS remains in a private beta, with no general availability date provided.

Meanwhile, Salesforce is also rolling out new capabilities for its core sales software, now called Sales Cloud1.

A capability called Today is themed like Google's Now, showing a salesperson's tasks, meetings, dashboards and other information. One purpose of Today is to give representatives a quick snapshot of information about an account before meetings.

Another new mobile app, Notes, provides a way to take notes and link them to the proper account. Other new apps include Events, a meeting organizer; Sales Path, for guided selling processes; and Sales Data, which will deliver salespeople third-party information about their accounts through a partnership with Thomson Reuters and Salesforce.com's own Data.com service.

Some of the features announced will arrive along with Salesforce.com's Winter '15 launch, while others will follow some months later, according to a spokesman. Sales Data won't be available until the second half of next year.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff will likely spend some time during his Dreamforce keynote discussing these updates, but he's also rumored to be announcing a new analytics cloud service at the event.

While the company continues entering new business lines that expand its reach beyond CRM, Salesforce.com customers are apparently waiting with their wallets open.

Some 71 percent of Salesforce.com customers surveyed by consulting firm Bluewolf said they planned to increase what they spend with Salesforce.com over the next year.

Out of that group, 12 percent intend to spend at least 50 percent more on the vendor's products, according to Bluewolf's "State of Salesforce" survey, which used data gathered along with the MIT Sloan School of Management. The survey garnered responses from more than 1,000 Salesforce.com customers.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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