Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mining Email Clutter in Salesforce.com

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, has an aversion to email.  At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013, his keynote speech was entitled “How are you connected with your customer, your partners, your employees.  Email?  Those days are over.”   Marc should pick up a copy of this month’s Foreign Affairs and carefully read the article written by Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger entitled “The Rise of Big Data”.  Their key insight is that “Large amounts of messy data trumped small amounts of clean data”.

Marc needs to think beyond the current fad of social networking and realize that the next $1 billion of revenue is in making use of big data.   With big data in his pocket, Salesforce.com’s current overblown valuation might actually be sustainable.

Currently, the big data component of customer relationship management is email and voice; two old technologies that make up 99% of customer interaction.  Think about it, what else is there?    Currently, cloud integration technologies exist that can consolidate all voice and email interactions inside a CRM system and make them available for data mining.

Using that mountain of raw and messy data, sales executives can apply data analysis techniques that can unlock patterns in customer behavior and use those trends to monitor and optimize the sales process.  On a simple level, daily sales rep activity can be measured.  How many emails and calls did a sales rep receive; how many emails and calls did he or she send/make?   More specifically, identify those Leads and Opportunities that are hot and those that are cold.  Look for linguistic clues in the email bodies and voice-over-IP transcripts as to why certain deals closed and other deals were lost.    Look at correlations between won deals and email subject lines to determine which phrases led to commercial success.

But to gain the benefits of big data in a CRM system, Salesforce.com needs to adjust its thinking.  Up until now, Salesforce.com has been about a small set of clean data.  Salesforce.com account reps are trained to create FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about email and voice-over-IP clutter.    More importantly, Salesforce.com pricing nudges customers away from big data concepts because storage is limited to absurdly low levels:  Enterprise Edition users get 20 MB of Data Storage, only enough for a few months of email and voice-over-IP data; Unlimited Editions users, which in fairness are used by the majority of major corporations, get enough storage for about 18 months.   Salesforce.com needs to unlock these constraints and give customers the space to import big data and analyze it.

There are two cloud services on the AppExchange that can be used as the foundation for email and voice-over-IP big data in Salesforce.com.  Match My Email offers automated Salesforce Outlook integration.  It is different from the other tools and services on the market because it creates a 100% complete and accurate email log in Salesforce.com with no user intervention.  This comprehensive data is then available for analysis.   Shoretel offers a voice-over-IP integration cloud for Salesforce.com.  The Shoretel service logs every voice interaction to Salesforce.com together with a transcript of the telephone call.  Because it works completely in the cloud like Match My Email and Salesforce.com, it captures every phone call regardless of where it is made – mobile phone or office phone.

Making use of apps such as these, Salesforce users can begin to harness the power of big data on their own, and maybe Salesforce will then move in that direction.

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