Salesforce ignores communities…and that’s ok !

Summary : when talking about customers, collaboration, web and anything social or 2.0, it’s impossible to avoid communities. Whether made of clients or employees, they are the answer to any issue and no one can have asocial/2.0 discourse without mentioning them. This approach, applied to customer service, has often been hard to implement because of the uncertain behavior of customers communities as well as the gap between the platforms used by customers to share their concerns and those used by those who have to deal with their issues. That said, we have to pay attention to what Salesforce said (or did  not…) at Cloudforce 2011 : communities have no place in the corporate discourse, the approach is more structured and cases seem to be the missing link that will fill the gap between structured systems (CRM…) and communities.

In early April I attended Cloudforce 2011 in Paris. At the beginning, my major interest was about multichannel customer service management without flow breaking (to make it simpler : how to receive / intercept any message from a customer, from any media -twitter, facebook etc…-, solve the problem, in a agile and collaborative way if possible, and answer to the customer on the same channel he used without having to switch from one tool to another). I saw interesting things….but, in the end, another thing caught my attention.

I heard lots of things on “social”, customers, collaboration but nothing on communities. I think it’s the first time in such a event that the C word is not overmentioned. Let’s try to understand why (and why it’s good).

– I’ll write about that later but, as I already said here and here, that’s not because your customers are on the web and are talking to you that they are a community. Most of all, when it’s about service because the fact customers are gathered does not change anything to the fact it’s all about individual issues and that people only care about their own problem and not the other’s.

– dealing with such cases, internally, is not about communities either but about adhoc collaborative structures, would it be a permanent experts team or the temporary gathering of people to deal with a case. Identifying those people through a network and finding information in communities does not change anything : it’s a kind of workgroup with a defined goal even if it’s not designed to last after the problem has been solved. Making it work is more about management than community management.

Besides that, Salesforce also showed groups that were not related to customer case management…but very quickly. The reason, in my opinion, is quite easy to understand. What they call “groups” is what others call communities and their viability highly depends on people’s will. Participation on cases is easier to generate and sustain and its result easier to get and value for organizations.

What else ? That confirms several things :

– participation is always easier in the flow than over the flow and tangible benefits are easier to assess in the first case.

– it’s easier to  catch the attention of businesses when putting 2.0 activities around the flow rather than shutting oneself way with community management discourses that only have an indirect benefit and which mechanics are hard to implement.

– between structured logics like CRM and unstructured logics like networks and communities, there is a grey zone that’s still poorly addressed and would make a lot of sense : case management. Sure that this topic will become hotter and hotter in the next months.


Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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