Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Meet the New, All About Service CEO Marc Benioff will be giving a big speech in New York today that will essentially set the table for the company’s agenda in 2013.

As Benioff keynotes go, this one has been described to me as “understated.” Rather than occupy a huge venue like the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Salesforce is holding this event at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Rather than a three-hour revival meeting, it will be a simpler one-hour address. It’s as though a big-name rock singer known for big stadium concert blowouts has shifted to the coffeehouse circuit.

Expect to hear the words “service” and “mobile” a lot. Salesforce made an announcement overnight about what it calls its Service Cloud. It has been adapted to run natively on mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad. The idea is that customer service reps or any other customer-facing employee can use a mobile device to help customers get the help they need or buy the stuff they want, regardless of how and when they present themselves.

One feature due later this year is called co-browsing. It allows customer-facing reps to engage in what Salesforce describes as a “shared Web experience,” basically browsing together. That pair of shoes you want but can’t seem to find, or that pair of slacks in your size? Sales or service reps can help you find it, and can see what you see on whatever screen you happen to be using.

A big theme of Salesforce’s assumptions and positioning will be around customer expectations. All of us are so used to having access to everything within seconds; when we’re customers we get impatient when we have to wait for someone else to track down whatever it is we need.

A couple of other new additions to the Service Cloud are aimed at addressing that. Mobile Service Cloud Communities give companies a way to build a single place where customers can get answers, either by way of self-help, other people or via company experts.

Another is an instant chat capability. The example I was given here is a clothing store. Say you’re waiting for an alteration. You check with the store, and the sales rep who takes your call is able to contact the tailor working on it directly, who tells you it will be ready in a few hours and you can pick it up on your way home from work.

What you won’t hear Benioff talking about is how the social enterprise is going to change the world. That message is so 2012, and has more or less played itself out.

But you can’t argue with the performance of Salesforce shares. They’re up by more than 34 percent since hitting a recent low in August. They closed Monday at $163.51. And the company looks on track to deliver its planned four-for-one share split. That, at least, is a message most shareholders can get behind.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work