Today, salesforce.com announced the intent to acquire Radian6, a leader in the social media monitoring space. You can find the details of the definitive agreement here. What I want to focus on is what this acquisition means to customer service.
First, the social listening vendor landscape is crowded and ripe for consolidation. Salesforce.com has just picked off the best vendor in this category of vendors, according to a recent Forrester Wave™ report. Radian6 helps salesforce.com extend its core customer service capabilities to the social channels like Facebook and Twitter, which are becoming increasingly important for companies looking to offer a differentiated customer service experience. This is not the first acquisition of this type; however, it is the most significant one, based on salesforce.com's market share and customer base. Expect to see similar acquisitions by CRM and customer service vendors in the future.
Multichannel commerce is dead, says fellow analyst Brian Walker in Forbes . The essence of this article is that customers don’t choose to interact with you on a single communication channel from start to finish. They interact with you over the most suitable channel for them at that point in time — which could be their mobile device, or a chat session, or a phone call, or email, or web self-service from their iPad. Brian calls this agile commerce.
I agree that it is an agile world out there. And yet, agility does not stop at commerce — it extends to everything that we do, from buying to receiving marketing offers to customer service. Think, for example, about the process you follow to fix an issue with one of your electronic devices. You may browse a community forum, browse the company’s Facebook page, then their official website, contact an agent who can't help you, tweet about it, get contacted by a better-skilled agent who figures out that you need to purchase a new driver and transfers you to someone who can process your order, which you receive on your mobile phone.
The point is that a customer does not make a distinction between a sales transaction or a customer service transaction. All they expect is to be able to receive the same customer experience every time they interact with a company, over any communication channel that they use.
Let’s focus on Facebook, as it has the potential to evolve into a shopping and service destination for retailers. Two support models are evolving. One model is to engage in support activities via a separate tab on a Facebook company page. Once a user clicks on this tab, they can engage with a community of peers or a customer service agent without leaving the site. There are vendors, like RightNow, Parature, Genesys, and Get Satisfaction, that offer apps that do just this.
The other Facebook support model that is emerging is one that is based on listening to all conversations happening on a wall, separating the noise from actionable posts, then routing actionable inquiries to a customer service department so that an agent can respond directly to the post — either on Facebook or by engaging the customer over a more appropriate channel — for example, like pushing a chat link to them on Facebook. This is the model that salesforce.com and LivePerson are advocating.