Salesforce.com and Radian6: Customer Implications

As many of you have no doubt heard, Salesforce.com announced its acquisition of Radian6 recently. I spoke with Kendall Collins, CMO of Salesforce.com right after the announcement but I decided to hold off on posting until the Radian6 Social2011...

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As many of you have no doubt heard, Salesforce.com announced its acquisition of Radian6 recently. I spoke with Kendall Collins, CMO of Salesforce.com right after the announcement but I decided to hold off on posting until the Radian6 Social2011 event where I got to spend time with David Alston (CMO) and Marcel LeBrun (CEO).

Broadly speaking, this acquisition has big implications on Customer Experience Management (CEM) - not where it is today but where it needs to go.

The problem with CEM today is this: Customer Experience Management for the most part is far too frontloaded and fragmented today as it tries to influence what happens at the edge (websites, community, email) by those responsible for the edge: Sales, Marketing and Support. Todays customer acquisition efforts continue to remain woefully inadequate and expensive, and slapping social data on CRM isn’t the answer either.

The profound shift is that marketing now happens continuously and at every touch point, not just designated marketing channels. That’s sales, marketing, support, innovation, developer communities and the like. Moreover, thanks to the social web, customers already come informed before they are ready to buy. And at that point, they want expert answers from subject matter experts to fill in the gaps; not marketing speak. That’s the new role of Customer Experience Management in 2011, requiring deep tentacles into both the social web, as well as the best minds hidden behind the firewall.

Those best minds could well be sales, support and marketing but it will increasingly be the product manager who built the product, the designer in R&D who conceived the product, or the supplier who provided components. What’s needed is for the right people in the organization to be tuned into the right conversations. And this is where Radian6 can provide the right complement to activities on Service Cloud, on Sales Cloud and on Chatter to enable to fluid interaction between:

  • The experts on the inside needs to be able to filter and listen, and then engage.
  • The process owners on the edge needs to be able to mine the organizational social network to credibly figure out which brainiac needs to be pulled into customer and prospect conversations.

No doubt there’s serious work to be done to make this work but the injection of Radian6 monitoring, filtering, engagement and analytics can begin to complement existing edge customer experience management programs to ultimately leverage the best minds for the job, regardless of where they are.


Here are some specific implications of this acquisition:


Sales Reps relying on Salesforce.com can finally tame the social web and extract what they need. As I stated in this ReadWriteWeb article by Klint Finley:


“The honest fact is that in most cases, raw social media data is far too unruly for a Sales rep to bother with,” Patel says. “They would rather make another cold call instead of perusing thousands of tweets.”

“The devil is in the design details, but what Radian6 can potentially offer is filtered, timely and contextualized social media insight to complement customer information and conversations already available inside the CRM application, Chatter and Jigsaw. And more importantly, at appropriate phases of the sales cycle.”


Unified Customer Interaction Management. As the function of marketing spreads to all customer touch points, CMOs will need to pay attention to customer experience in non marketing channels such as support, self service, product innovation and the like. Radian6, already vetted by many CMOs, could become the customer engagement hub that ensures that end customer interactions are choreographed, regardless of which functional area the conversation or information request emerged from.

Analytics: In my estimation, the value of Radian6 is far more than external Social Media Marketing functionality and engagement. Organizational social network analysis is still nascent. Socialcast has had analytics for a while and Jive Software just beefed up its offering with the purchase of Proximal Labs. The underlying Radian6 analytics features can be applied to engagement on branded / support communities, internal employee communities powered by Chatter and presumably to force.com apps using Chatter. That’s significant to know who to call on, and when.

Some issues do need to get ironed out, though….


Got Marketing?: Marketing teams really don’t use Salesforce.com CRM in huge volumes. Radian6 brings a lot of marketers to the SFDC ecosystem but now it suddenly looks like a weak marketing offering with large white spaces between listening (Radian6) and quota updates (CRM). The major inbound and outbound marketing components are glaringly absent in the SFDC stack. If Salesforce.com wants to really tease marketers with a comprehensive enterprise class solution, it needs to backfill components of the marketing stack that brings the leads in. (cough…HubSpot…cough… Marketo…. cough).

Chatter or Noise?: Internal Social Networks are getting woefully loud. Alerts and Notifications from Apps across Force.com can make it even louder. Now pepper in Social Media pings to exasperate this problem. If the integration of Radian6 into Chatter is not done systematically, this could end up morphing into something that’s between hard-to-use to software bloat with features that no one turns on.

Ecosystem Strain: Salesforce.com is an investor in Seesmic and InsideView is an appexchange partner. Radian6 now offers Chatter integration, a fully supported social media engagement platform, newly announced insights platform, and ofcourse, media monitoring. These overlap with Seesmic for the most part and to a much lesser degree, with InsideView (at this time). Ultimately, choices will have to be made.

Which Salesforce.com bought Radian6? Salesforce.com seems to have 2 personas these days. The first that’s traditionally hard nosed about enterprise use cases via Sales Cloud, Force.com and Service Cloud, and the surgical use of social data. The second is the Willi.am singing, Superbowl Ad sporting, Seesmic chattering view that no doubt makes work look like more fun but trivializes the task ahead for organizations as they embrace an extremely fast changing customer dynamic on the social web and internal workplace performance challenges, but yet are as pressured as ever to make the numbers for next quarter. No doubt, these two personas will meet in the middle at some point (the enterprise desperately needs a solid dose of both) but until then, my hope is that Radian6 is placed in the former bucket. The service is increasingly solving tough, high profile business problems today, as expressed by customers at the Social2011 event, and so lets keep it that way.


Closing

There are some very valid questions about the price tag. Other social media monitoring platforms have been purchased for a tiny fraction of this acquisition amount, albeit at the pre-bubble stage.

But from a salesforce.com customer standpoint this is a net positive, by a mile. We have customers who happen to use most of the leading enterprise social software platforms to accelerate employee, customer and partner performance. And both Chatter and Radian6 play a role in making this happen for some.

Assuming the integration goes smoothly and the right connectivity points are selected from the salesforce.com portfolio of products, there’s big benefit to be had for the end customer of both organizations.

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