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Friday, 03 April 2009 10:25

CRM rush to Twitter predicted

Social network Twitter is growing in leaps and bounds with thousands of new tweeters singing up every day, and now many large businesses have jumped on the social networking bandwagon, reportedly starting to use Twitter as a key tool in their customer service inventory.

According to industry analysts, Datamonitor, the recently announced addition of Twitter to the Saleasforce.com service cloud is likely to be followed in rapid succession by other customer relationship management (CRM) vendors needing to address increasing demands for social networking.

Datamonitor says Salesforce.com is the first to offer integration with social networking websites, providing integration with customer data to subscribers from the summer.  The Twitter announcement adds to Salesforce’s existing integration with Google and Facebook.

Aphrodite Brinsmead, customer interaction technologies analyst at Datamonitor, says many large brands have begun to use Twitter as a customer service tool, such as Bank of America, Comcast, JetBlue, and Zappos.

“These companies are offering customers advice in response to queries and providing information about new products and services. This allows companies to make information more readily available and, additionally, customers are sharing advice and information among themselves.
“Using Salesforce.com, these brands will be able to set up alerts when someone mentions the company name in order to track sentiments. Salesforce.com will offer analytics capabilities for customers to find trends and data patterns.”

Brinsmead says the solution connects social networking with client interaction processes, utilising forums and search engines for customer feedback, with the integration with Twitter available from summer 2009, and allowing automated searches of Twitter content to be pulled into Salesforce CRM.

“Twitter has recently improved its search capabilities and after acquiring Summize in July 2008, Twitter now offers users the ability to search all updates to find relevant words or phrases.

“This technology will be utilised by Salesforce.com customers who will be able to select appropriate phrases or words to create records in the Service Cloud.”

Commenting on Salesforce.com’s CRM integration with Twitter, Brinsmead said “it has approached the market early before customers are fully aware of the need for this type of integration.”

“Datamonitor believes this timing is right because websites such as Facebook and Twitter are undergoing a rapid uptake in users. According to TweetRush, a service providing estimated statistics on Twitter usage, in early February Twitter had around 400,000 active users per day; this figure had risen to over 600,000 active users on average per day by the end of March. Facebook now has 175 million active users and, interestingly, from the website's own statistics page, more than four million users become fans of Pages each day.”

Brinsmead says this is particularly relevant for Salesforce.com, which is utilising brand Pages to push information to Google through the Service Cloud in order to provide information to its customers and push customer information back to the brands.

She advises Salesforce.com's clients to develop brand equity and focus on improving customer service and customer retention rates, particularly in the slow economy.

But, Brinsmead also warns that there are also concerns around security in sharing and integrating information from Web 2.0 channels, saying that at the moment, it is difficult to validate the authenticity of postings and advisors, and data ownership.

“Analysing the continuous flow of information could prove challenging for Salesforce.com, which is not traditionally an analytics or business intelligence (BI) company,” according to Brinsmead.

“The company may need to form further partnerships with BI or analytics vendors to enable customers to get the best presentation of information and this could also be costly for customers. However, Salesforce.com does have a large pool of AppXchange partners with the ability to create a social networking-specific analytics tool, and should encourage development of this type of application.”

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