Category Archives: Technology

Support and Customer Development

I spoke to a group of entrepreneurs recently regarding the connection between Support and Customer Development. This has been a favorite subject of mine for some time, but this was the first time I tried to do a comprehensive presentation on the topic. As I put together the presentation, I realized that there was really so much more I could say. Nevertheless, I’m happy with the result, and I’ve uploaded the presentation to SlideShare.

Support as Customer Development
View more presentations from Darius Dunlap

I’d love to hear any thoughts or questions. I think there is much more I could say, so maybe I’ll make this a series.

A platform powerhouse at Salesforce.com?

Dreamforce 2010, the Salesforce.com annual show, has already been interesting after just the first day. There have been interesting product introductions, and lots of announcements from partners and developers that continue to build on the Force.com platform ecosystem.

Because of my interest in startups and small, fast growing companies, the new integration announced by Zendesk is particularly interesting. I’m looking forward to playing with that and understanding it in detail.

Also important is the continuing development of the capabilities of Chatter, the internal communications platform. Today Salesforce announced that Chatter will be free to everyone in a client company, instead of that being an extra option. ReadWriteWeb did a great job covering this on their Cloud coverage section a couple weeks ago:

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff reportedly told analysts today that the company will announce a free version of its enterprise activity stream product Chatter at the annual Dreamforce event in San Francisco next month. The revelation came in a conference call with financial analysts to discuss the company’s third quarter financial results, according to CRN. Benioff confirmed the story via Twitter this evening. Salesforce.com currently offers Chatter for free to Salesforce.com users or for $15 a month per user for non-Salesforce.com users. Benioff described the free, stripped down version of Chatter as a “virally based product.”

Excerpt from: Salesforce.com’s Chatter to Go Freemium (Updated) – ReadWriteCloud

But most interesting in my mind is the holistic direction of all of this. Salesforce.com continues to develop a strong platform that extends beyond the salesforce automation market. Even where people can point out deficiencies in the current offering, talking to the Salesforce people you see good thought going into the ongoing development, and overall strategy.

I’ll be watching closely. Even if you’re not a Salesforce.com customer, so should you.

Better, Faster… More Friendly?

The most productive and high-performing teams I’ve seen have had a high degree of camaraderie and fun in the regular workday. Stowe writes about a recent cognition study, with implications for social tools.

This suggests that work places where friendly interaction is the norm should have more focused and production workers, while settings where friendly interaction is less prevalent should lead to the opposite, negative effects on cognition.

For developers of social tools designed for the workplace, there should be a great deal of attention spent trying to make friendly interactions low cost. For example, including a wide variety of ways to allow users to interact, and to support haptic gestures: pats on the back, digital ‘waves’, shout outs.

Excerpt from: Stowe Boyd

I’d extend this beyond social tools. Almost any enterprise software system involves moving information between people and creating information for others. What if those systems made it easy to say “Thank you, nicely done”, made it easier for people to connect as people?

 

ATT’s contract stickiness

TechCrunch reports that there are some disparities between the estimates of ATT subscriber loss expected if they lose their exclusivity on the iPhone and how ATT CEO Randall Stephenson is portraying the situation.

Earlier today, a study by Credit Suisse was released stating that 23 percent of iPhone users currently on AT&T would switch to Verizon if that carrier offered the phone. That number is slightly off from the 34 percent that was previously reported, but is still pretty massive. In total, that represents about 1.4 million customers that would jump ship from AT&T to Verizon without hesitation. But speaking today at the Goldman Sachs media and technology conference, Communacopia (yes, awful name), AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had something interesting to say about possible defections.

Stephenson noted that 80 percent of AT&T’s iPhone base is either in family plans or business relationships with the carrier and that these type of customers tend to be “very sticky.” So essentially what he’s saying is that those 80 percent of iPhone users probably won’t leave even if they want to. Wow, that’s a fresh approach.

Excerpt from TechCrunch: http://techcrunch.com/2010/09/22/att-iphone-verizon/

Sure, the ATT CEO is predictably putting emphasis on the side of the equation that makes them look best to their investors. The study cited even admits that only 3% of customers would break their contract to switch. More troubling for ATT should be the other report that says 34% of customers waiting for a new carrier before they upgrade their iPhone.

It may be that the past stickiness of family plans and business relationships may not be such a reliable predictor of the future.

 

Tricking people is not “Viral”

You’d think Cluetrain never happened. So many companies, and even sophisticated marketing consultancies, seem to think that tricking people into “sharing” so that their contest “goes viral” is a useful strategy. Note the recent hubbub regarding the Fast Company contest, summarized nicely by my friend Alexia:

These sentiments were echoed by countless others. The biggest problem here is that this is a Fast Company editorial project which provides no service or experience to a reader besides that of clicking on rather confusing links in order to be confronted with bullshit “influence” metrics, which inevitably leaves people feeling empty and used — hence the spreading of Amber Naslund’s post around the Internet in hopes of making some sense of it all.

Excerpt from: Fast Company Influence Project Pisses Off Online Influencers – San Francisco News – The Snitch

Read the whole thing and follow some of those links. it’s a great cautionary tale for those tempted by such tricks.

Do you know who the mayor of your business is? « The BrandBuilder Blog

Olivier Blanchard has done a nice no-nonsense overview of Four Square for small businesses. All my friends and family with restaurants, spas, shops of all sorts should take this advice…

Pop quiz: You own or manage a restaurant. A hotel. A coffee shop. A specialty goods store. A hot dog stand. A bank. A movie theater. A shoe store. A gym. A bodega. A hair salon. A sushi bar. A pub. A public park. A swimming pool. A museum. An art gallery. A city. Do you know who the mayor of your business is?

If you don’t, find out today. Right now. Here’s why: It could help your business grow pretty quickly if you play your cards right. More on that in a minute. First, here’s how to find out who has claimed the title of mayor on Foursquare: (Huh? fourwhat? Hang on. We’ll get to that too.)

Excerpt from: Do you know who the mayor of your business is? « The BrandBuilder Blog

 

Small companies can get sophisticated tools

I’ve long been a fan of Salesforce.com. This Software-as-a Service pioneer has built an impressive platform for business that’s easily scalable from one user to many thousands.

The base product continues to get better. For example, now that Chatter is out of Beta ( http://www.salesforce.com/chatter/ ), sophisticated social media features are built in. Also, Salesforce recently acquired Jigsaw, a crowd-sourced business contact directory service nicely integrated in Salesforce.com.

What really sets Salesforce apart, however, is the way they’ve built it up as a platform. Using the CRM as a hub, you can connect a wide variety of applications to the platform and provide your team and your customers with some amazing capabilities.

At the Salesforce.com CloudForce event this week in San Jose, there were a number of interesting companies presenting their systems. Here are a few that can provide sophisticated capabilities for even a small company.

Contactual – http://www.contactual.com/

This innovative call center solution provides a great alternative to traditional call center technologies. Even a small company can use Contactual to set up sophisticated call distribution and outbound calling that’s integrated into Salesforce.

Ribbit – http://www.ribbit.com/crm/salesforce/

Ribbit is a BT company that is located here in Silicon Valley. Their Salesforce.com integrated product provides voice note transcription directly into Salesforce, and sophisticated notifications by SMS and email, plus call routing and voicemail transcription capabilities.

BigMachines – http://www.bigmachines.com/

Their “Product Configurator” software is a great tool for complex configuration problems, even allowing for workflow rules automation based on configurations, such as triggering a technical review before official quote is approved.

Xactly – http://xactlycorp.com/

The Xaclty system allows you to configure and manage your sales incentive programs. The world class management team includes guys I know personally from my SGI days: Chris Cabrera, Evan Ellis and Steve DeMarco. Real pros.

AppExtremes Conga – http://home.appextremes.com/conga/

Conga gives you sophisticated document and workflow management integrated right into Salesforce.com Allows your team to create sophisticated documents from multiple source materials with just a few clicks. It’s available as a 30-day trial on the Salesforce AppExchange.

If you’re a small company considering implementing Salesforce.com, the right consultant can help speed the process and ensure you get everything humming.

LionzForce – http://www.lionzforce.com

My friend Jeff Lionz is an experienced sales professional who has built a great team to help you understand Salesforce.com and configure it to work for your business. Give him a call.