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Salesforce.com rebuilds Assistly into Desk.com, a help desk for SMBs

Barney Beal

Salesforce.com today released Desk.com, its customer service and help desk application for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) based on its acquisition of Assistly Inc.

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Desk.com represents a slight departure from Salesforce.com’s traditional approach to software development, targeting SMBs specifically. While the San Francisco-based company has offered scaled-down versions of its enterprise software for SMBs, Desk.com is aimed squarely at that market.

“If you look at what Salesforce has done over the last couple years with the SFA tool and the contact manger tool, they’ve tried to focus configurations of the product for the SMB market,” said Denis Pombriant, managing principle of Stoughton, Mass.-based Beagle Research Group LLC.

For example, it offers a contact manager tool for $2 per user per month and a group version for $15 per user per month, both for up to five users.

Desk.com provides a free license for the first user and is priced at $49 per user per month beyond that. Additionally, because it is targeted at SMBs, where customer service responsibilities are often shared throughout the organization, Desk.com provides a flex plan, allowing companies to add users for a $1 per hour charge.

While Desk.com is based largely on the processes and workflow from Assistly, it has been rebuilt, said Alex Bard president and general manager of Desk.com and former CEO of Assistly.

“We built a completely new product,” Bard said. “It includes an agent desktop, built from the ground up, a completely new set of APIs [application programming interfaces], a new mobile experience, reporting and integration into the Sales Cloud.”

Desk.com focuses heavily on social networks, integrating tightly with Twitter and Facebook.

“The big part of spending time with Marc [Benioff, Salesforce.com’s CEO] and Salesforce is taking this social vision and democratizing it down to the smallest companies,” Bard said. “That’s what we’re doing.”

Built with HTML5, Desk.com can be accessed across any mobile device and lets users log in and respond to customers from anywhere. Salesforce.com demonstrated a scenario where a tweet from a customer can be marked and forwarded by customer service to a marketing employee on the road who could then log in via his iPhone and respond to the tweet with a recent promotion.

Desk.com also provides a knowledge base that can be shared by customer service within an organization or integrated as a customer self-service tool within a company’s website, via an extension to a Desk.com URL. That URL and self-service experience can be customized to more closely match the company’s site.

Before the acquisition by Salesforce.com, Assistly boasted thousands of customers, including some trendy names like Boloco, Instagram and Spotify. All Assistly customers were migrated to Desk.com overnight.

While Desk.com provides integration into the Sales Cloud, Salesforce.com’s traditional, sales force automation product, Desk.com is a separate application from the Service Cloud, its customer service tool. Salesforce.com has not established a migration path for customers who might want to move between the two tools.

“Service Cloud is optimized for midmarket and above, we’re optimized for midmarket and below,” Bard said. “But we absolutely want to do the right thing for our customers. We’re working on what is the right transition path. We’re going to listen closely and ultimately build that in.”

The ability to build for the enterprise and SMBs at the same time is an advantage for Salesforce.com, according to Pombriant.

“A lot of folks can’t do that,” he said. “It’s always been the Holy Grail of this kind of approach to software.”

 


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