Salesforce.com does a lot of things well, and has been a positive force for innovation in this industry. Recently the company announced the “Service Cloud 2″ and I was briefed by Alex Dayon, the SVP who heads up the company’s push into customer service. Dayon came to Salesforce.com with the acquisition of Instranet last year.
Essentially the news is that Salesforce.com now offers a cloud-based customer service solution that fully integrates Instranet’s technology into the Force.com platform. Also announced was the general availability of Twitter integration, such that users can capture information from Twitter and push back tweets.
This is a very nice announcement and shows that Salesforce.com is serious about becoming a leader in this space. Dayon says the market is “bigger than SFA” and is “our next billion dollar opportunity.”
The size of that opportunity along with a push for new growth options beyond SFA may explain why the hypemeisters at Salesforce.com have gone overboard on marketing statements. For example, the press release says:
“A year after salesforce.com acquired Instranet, salesforce.com will offer the world’s first Knowledge-as-a-Service, the first ever multi-tenant knowledge base designed for cloud computing.”
And then there’s this…
“8,000 companies have already standardized on the Service Cloud including Extra Space Storage, NJ TRANSIT and Plantronics.”
That’s interesting, because Plantronics has been a long-time RightNow customer, according to RightNow’s VP of Products David Vap.
Now, I’m not writing this post to defend Parature, RightNow or anyone else. That’s their job. Aggressive marketing is part of the game in this industry. Software marketing is like playing basketball in the NBA. You’d better sharpen up your elbows and get ready to bang bodies.
But in this case Salesforce.com is going too far promoting statements that are simply not true. This Service Cloud 2 announcement is reverting to old Siebel tactics: Claim market leadership, make unsubstantiated claims, then build a bandwagon effect to acquire customers based on that hype.
The problem is, once trust is damaged it’s hard to get back. Just ask Tom Siebel.
For example, another statement in the press release claims that Salesforce.com customers have seen a “28% increase in customer satisfaction, 25% increase in call deflection” and other similar benefits. Now I’m not inclined to believe any of these claims. Just more hype from a vendor trying to sell something.
This is also not a shining moment for supposedly independent industry analysts covering Salesforce.com. Why has no one said anything publicly about these obvious misrepresentations? Could it be because Salesforce.com is a client? Then why should end user clients trust their advice?
And then there’s the media. I’m disappointed that experienced industry journalists from prominent magazines and web portals have also said nothing. Just reprint the press release and it’s all good. This lack of independent, critical coverage also undermines trust in what they publish. Big vendors and advertisers shouldn’t get a free ride.
So, my advice to those considering Salesforce.com is simply this: Verify all claims. If you get the runaround, then look elsewhere. There are many other choices for SaaS vendors in the market. Pick one that you trust.
In the end, what these egregious marketing tactics do is erode trust in the software industry. The SaaS movement has made huge progress over the sell-it-and-run license software days. Please, Salesforce.com, let’s not turn back the clock.
Marc Benioff, it’s your job to fix this.