Salesforce CRM in the cloud

Jane Stefanski 18 August 2011 0

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications are used to centrally store business information so that it can be shared across a company, helping to manage workflow, hold data about customers and clients, improve sales and marketing functions (often automating many key functions), and provide better customer services.

CRM applications, particularly custom applications, have traditionally required the installation of hardware and software at the business. provides CRM applications that are accessed via a web browser over the internet and as pay-as-you-go services.

Salesforce divides its main CRM offerings into different applications: Sales Cloud and Service Cloud.

The Sales Cloud application, focussing on sales activities:

  • Stores all customer data, including contact information, account history and business interactions.
  • Holds all information about marketing campaigns, leads and conversions.
  • Shows the deals and opportunities that are currently being pursued, their worth, what stage they’re at, and the competitors.
  • Provides analytics and forecasting information about the business.
  • Streamlines routine business activities and workflow, and interacts with many everyday applications, such as MS Outlook, Google Apps and Lotus Notes.
  • Provides a content library where you can store and share documents and presentations.
  • Has a knowledge-sharing tool where you can find and share information about your company’s previous business deals and how they were won.
  • Allows community collaboration and working with business partners to share information and processes.
  • Provides an interactive staff directory and ‘chat’ tool.

The Service Cloud application, focussing more on customer service activities:

  • Has a call centre feature which can track, route and escalate contacts and which integrates with the existing telephone system.
  • Has a customer portal where customers can get updates on cases they have raised, search a knowledge base and join a Q&A community.
  • Provides email templates and can create cases from incoming customer emails, whilst integrating with the existing email system.
  • Has a ‘click to chat’ service for instant customer conversations.
  • Has a tool to manage service and support functions, such as call scripting and case resolution processes.
  • Shows visual timelines of service agreements for different customers.
  • Allows working with partners, eg. third-party service representatives, who can take on customer cases.
  • Provides an interactive staff directory and ‘chat’ tool.
  • Has analytics and forecasting tools.
  • Connects with popular social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Links its knowledge base with Google, and other search engines, so that its answers can be seen in search results.

Over 800 additional CRM apps from Salesforce partners can be installed and with the additional platform custom apps and websites can be built.

The applications are available in different editions (including a Small Business version), depending on the size and requirements of the business, and there’s a free trial for all editions.

Because Salesforce applications are cloud-based, there is no need to manage data centres, or install hardware and software. The only requirements are a web browser and an internet connection. Salesforce is also available as a mobile service.

Salesforce is used by around 100,000 companies worldwide, including big-name UK companies such as Boots, Veolia and Standard Life.

Our verdict

Salesforce is the market leader for hosted CRM and represents a low-risk entry product for businesses of any size. As with all systems, training is required to extract maximum value from the product so this should be factored into costings. Organisations with an existing CRM may need assistance migrating data into Salesforce.

Jane Stefanski (2 Posts)

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