Salesforce.com customers talk up Chatter at Dreamforce '12

Salesforce.com trots out some of its most high-profile customer leaders, including Virgin America's CEO and TLC's Cake Boss.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Salesforce.com collected together a handful of leaders of its major customers on Wednesday afternoon at Dreamforce '12 to discuss how they put different Salesforce solutions to use.

Although the conversation was a bit lovey-dovey about various products in the Salesforce portfolio, much of the focus was on how Chatter is being put to use by very different businesses.

See also on CNET: Salesforce.com's Marc Benioff preaches the social enterprise gospel

Virgin America has been paraded heavily lately as a major Salesforce customer and partner. CEO David Cush continued that dialogue from the morning keynote into the customer panel by explaining how the airline is implementing Chatter on both the customer and employee ends of the spectrum.

Frequent flyers will notice that Virgin America is upgrading its chat and navigation menu on its planes by replacing the old system with Chatter. The internal Chatter system for employees has also been re-branded and designed to fit in with the Virgin America culture.

Cush remarked that he is most excited by what Chatter will do with internal communications. He explained that, traditionally, airlines are very "chain of command-oriented", but that Virgin America is a young and very different airline.

"Most of our employees work remotely in airplanes," Cush said. "Being able to tap into an assessment of our peers has never been done before, and it could be revolutionary."

Going forward with Chatter and other Salesforce solutions such as Rypple-powered Work.com, Cush said that the focus for the five-year old carrier is collaboration and building its culture as well as integrating the customers into those conversations.

Thus, Virgin America's vision for infusing social technologies through the enterprise include integrating everything across its employee portal along with other lines of service such as performance management and customer service.

Buddy Valastro, master baker of Carlo's Bakery and star of TLC's Cake Boss, chimed in that his company also uses Chatter, joking that it's "crazy that we have the same power that [Virgin has] and leveraging the same kinds of tools."

Citing that Carlo's Bakery also uses Salesforce CRM, Service Cloud and Heroku, Valastro talked a bit about "Cake Force," an internal service based on Salesforce products for processing customer requests from the initial order through delivery.

"People don't realize that there's a lot of different people that have to touch that cake before it's done," Valastro quipped, acknowledging to some laughter he didn't mean literally.

Valastro added that Carlo's Bakery also signed up for social media tracking service Radian6, admitting that it's one of the pricier solutions owned by Salesforce. But after the TLC show took off, Valastro said he found it to be worth paying for because it "was important to connect with people from a social perspective" and honestly hear if they like something or not.

Valastro also acknowledged that understanding customers might be a bit difficult sometimes because of a generation gap, positing that typically younger consumers are much more willing to plug into social media than older customers who might be wary of it.

Brian Spaly, CEO of Trunk Club, a personal stylist and clothing service for men, also stressed the need of knowing what customers are thinking across social channels. For his business, Spaly said that "the hypothesis is that guys hate shopping but love looking good."

To make that happen, Spaly asserted that you need to know as much as you can about them without being intrusive.

Often times, that starts off with an email. But after that, he explained that when the customer is happy with a purchase and posts pictures of it on Facebook and elsewhere online, the business needs to track that.

Thus, the concept from this panel (and basically the rest of the Dreamforce '12 conference) that Salesforce wants people to takeaway is that businesses need to integrate and utilize social tracking technologies to produce revenue going forward.

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