Salesforce Makes Community Cloud Friendlier for Users

To make Internet communities more practical for moderators and users, Salesforce today introduced new features to its Community Cloud. According to executives of the company, the improvements enhance the intelligence, speed, and engagement functions of the previous version.

Drawing on sophisticated algorithms that analyze Big Data, Targeting Recommendations determines what content is relevant to which members of a community, so that those overseeing a group can get a better handle on how to share materials. If, for instance, a moderator has an article on hand of use to a member in a specific region who is interested in classic cars, the program can pick him and filter out those members it deems irrelevant. Based on overall reactions to user activity, it likewise has the ability to recognize top influencers and experts and rank them accordingly. Lightning Community Builder and Templates grants lay users the ability to customize elements within a group. Employing a drag-and-drop system, moderators can configure layout settings (such as headings or color schemes) and share files or apps without the hassle of turning to IT or computer experts. On the employee engagement end, Files Connect for Google Drive enables teams to share documents with colleagues and partners, with the aim of smoothing and centralizing collaborative efforts.

For Salesforce, the release is another in a series of efforts to make communities convenient, centralized hubs through which customers can solve problems and employees collaborate on projects. All too often, businesses try to manage customer issues through social pages—a route that often leads to snags, according to Mike Stone, senior vice president of marketing at Salesforce Community Cloud. One problem with social networks, Stone points out, is that they are "disconnected from the internal business and the actual system of record or CRM systems that people [are] working with." Having customer feedback and employee activity attached to a system of record, rather than scattered across the Web, makes it easier for companies to ensure customer questions are being adequately addressed.

Having such an efficient system in place can simplify the handling of customer cases, and in turn increase customer satisfaction, says Mike Micucci, senior vice president of product management at Salesforce Community Cloud. One customer, the online payment gateway eWay, "saw a fifty percent reduction in cases created," Micucci says, "because now customers are coming to the community and getting assistance from key people." Likewise, "the answers are recorded and SEO optimized."

"Targeted Recommendations and its capability to analyze structured and unstructured data will be important in helping to add context and relevancy to the community," says Brent Leary, partner at CRM Essentials. "This should assist in facilitating more meaningful interactions and make it easier for members to find value in being an active part of the community."

Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research, agrees that using communities to listen to customers is important. But Salesforce needs to "improve on file handling, either by better supporting third-party products, or aggressively pushing its Files product further," Mueller says. 

The company does have plans for improvements. "You're going to see great enhancements to the builder, more components that can be added to each page, and more customization options," Micucci promises. "We will [also] continue to expand how we connect external sources into salesforce to increase collaboration and engagement inside Salesforce."

And over the next year the company will add "Lightening Objects,” which will be compiled in a library, Stone says.

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