Salesforce Launches Service Cloud

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Salesforce has repurposed the customer-service software acquired through its August 2008 purchase of InstraNet into a new offering called the Service Cloud, the company announced Thursday.

The package seeks to combine traditional call-center features with aspects of search engine technology and social-networking sites like Facebook.

"Customers today are looking to the cloud for answers," said Alex Dayon, senior vice president of customer service and support at Salesforce.

Salesforce believes cloud-based customer service is "the next billion-dollar opportunity" for the company, Dayon added.

The company is basing the Service Cloud on a group of core elements: online customer communities; social networks; improving search engine results; sharing knowledge base information with partners; and making data from the cloud available to traditional e-mail, phone and chat-based customer service representatives. The software is organized via a central dashboard interface showing activity in the various channels.

A Salesforce demonstration shows a customer question-and-answer application that the telecom company Orange created for Facebook. Once an answer received a set number of positive votes, the information was automatically pushed from Facebook into Salesforce, where an administrator could decide whether it should be included in the company's central knowledge base and accessible to all customer service channels.

The InstraNet code is working under the hood of the Service Cloud, handling content provisioning and workflow, Dayon said. "You can see all those engines in action blended into the technology," he said.

InstraNet's application was on-premises. Customers who wish to retain that deployment model will be supported as long as they like, but Salesforce is finding that many are starting to embrace the cloud model, Dayon said.

Service Cloud pricing starts at US$995 per month.

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