SMBs get their very own Salesforce app store

A data integation feature will allow users to add customer information stored in the apps to their Desk.com portal

Users of Desk.com, Salesforce's cloud-based customer service product for small and medium-size businesses, now have an app store designed just for them. Called Desk.com App Hub, the store offers 50 apps from Salesforce partner companies that handle functions including group chat, social monitoring, language translation and e-commerce analytics.

Customer data from these apps can eventually be integrated with Desk.com via new technology called Canvas, a feature that can lead to better customer service, according to a Desk.com executive.

Small companies use many cloud services and need to a way to centrally organize data to provide good customer service, said Leyla Seka, senior vice president and general manager of Desk.com. The challenge, though, is that many of these apps don't work together and small companies lack the resources to integrate this information. This forces users to access multiple apps to gather relevant data, a situation that can hurt service efforts if employees miss information that's stored across disparate cloud applications.

"Small companies just can't spend a lot of time and energy on IT infrastructure or systems management. SMBs have to make a lot of choice and we want to make sure that their data is integrated so they make the right decisions," Seka said.

Some of the third-party apps that are available in App Hub include products from email marketing service provider MailChimp, e-commerce software developer Shopify and Jira, which creates project management software. By adding these apps to Desk.com, a customer service agent could, for example, use MailChimp to see what newsletters a customer has signed up for or Shopify to review what they've ordered on a company's website from within the Desk.com portal. This eliminates the need for agents to open additional apps to retrieve information and creates a comprehensive customer overview.

Easy access to this data leads to better customer service, Seka said.

"Those additional data points make you feel connected to your customer. It's much more about creating a relationship and managing all the data about customers," Seka said.

App Hub, which launched Monday, is modelled after the Salesforce AppExchange, the company's app store for enterprises, said Seka, who previously ran AppExchange. The App Hub differs from its enterprise-focused counterpart by offering apps that were selected based on their relevancy to small businesses.

"We want our customers to be able to come to us and get whatever they need, whether we build it or someone else builds it," she said.

Another integration feature of Desk.com App Hub allows companies to add telephony capabilities to Desk.com and answer calls from within the portal using phone services from Five9, NewVoiceMedia, OneReach, RingCentral and TalkDesk.

Salesforce.com also announced a feature called Desk Connect that allows Desk.com customers to sync data to Service Cloud, the company's customer service cloud product for enterprises, when their businesses grow and require additional customer service features.

Desk.com is available now for US$30 per user per month. The Canvas data integration feature won't be available until early 2015 and pricing will be announced at that time. To use the Desk Connect and telephony features customers will need the Desk.com Plus plan, which starts at $50 per user per month. To use the apps in App Hub, customers must already be signed up for the services.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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