- Salesforce Essentials now lets small business owners respond to customers on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook without leaving the dashboard.
- Social media features, previously only available for larger businesses, have been integrated for Salesforce's SMB offerings.
- Another new feature, Lightning Dialer, launches today for users in the U.S. and Canada. It serves as an "out-of-the-box call center solution" that allows users to pull up a customer's profile and view notes from previous calls.
Social media platforms are increasingly used as places for small businesses to converse with their customers. It was with those conversations in mind that officials at SaaS giant Salesforce announced a bevy of social media-minded tools for its main small business suite.
Since its launch in November 2017, the company has positioned Salesforce Essentials as its "all-in-one CRM solution," as it has apps that allow small businesses to integrate the other services they use with the system. With today's announcement, that single dashboard can now manage a business's Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube accounts and facilitate real-time conversations with customers on them.
"We all expect real-time instantaneous communication today – whether it's with our family, friends or favorite brands," said Marie Rosecrans, senior vice president of SMB marketing for Salesforce Essentials. "Now Salesforce Essentials is giving small businesses the tools needed to manage customer communications across all those channels in one centralized spot."
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Streamlining social media responses
According to Melissa Meli, director of product marketing at Salesforce, many of today's new features were previously only available at the enterprise level, which gave bigger companies a significant advantage in the social media space when using Salesforce's cloud-based software. Today's release, Meli said, helps bridge the gap and addresses a competitive disadvantage that 53% of SMB owners said they felt when it came to meeting customer expectations.
"What we hear from our small business clients is that they need to reach millions online, but it's a challenge to keep up with all these channels," she said. "With this service, they no longer need to jump around for each platform."
In a demo provided by the company earlier this week, Meli showcased how Salesforce Essentials manages social media in real time. Along with existing integrations with Facebook and Twitter, the new features added to the dashboard allow real-time chat with users through Facebook Messenger.
During the demo, a question was sent from a "customer" to a business account linked to the Salesforce Essentials dashboard. In less than a second, the message blinked on Salesforce's dashboard, prompting the employee to immediately switch over to the appropriate screen and respond to the question.
For Instagram and YouTube accounts, the process is similar, but focuses on comments left on each post. When a comment is made, the appropriate employee gets a notification and can easily respond straight from the Salesforce Essentials dashboard, rather than having to log on to the social media platform to do so.
"A personalized customer service experience can mean the difference between a bad review and a happy, repeat customer," wrote Paul Pedrazzi, SVP of product for Salesforce Essentials, in a blog post detailing today's announcement. "That's why I'm so excited about the new conversation channels in our latest release. Many small businesses have grown up on social media platforms and need to be able to communicate and engage with customers on their preferred channels."
Since the realm of social media is constantly shifting, Meli said Salesforce will consider adding other platforms to the product over time. "We always have our finger on the pulse of what's new and potential channels coming out that could help our small business clients in the future." [Are you looking for CRM software for your business? Check out our best picks and reviews.]
Tools for live chat and phone support
Outside of the social media aspect, Salesforce Essentials now gives business owners the ability to install a chat widget to their website. Whenever a potential customer uses the webchat feature, the message is routed to an employee who can maintain the conversation from the dashboard. Once on the screen, any past notes and interactions between the business and that customer can be easily viewed. Meli said access to that sort of information reduces the need to keep asking the same questions whenever a regular customer reaches out.
Along with the new social media integrations, Salesforce announced that the Essentials product now includes a native phone support system baked into the dashboard. Using Lightning Dialer, employees can make and receive calls that are automatically logged in the system. The service provides a phone number with a local area code for use with the Salesforce Essentials product. During the call, the customer's profile pops up to display pertinent, contextual information.
Each of these new features comes with access to a "library of simple walkthroughs within the product to easily get set up ... in minutes," officials said. Along with guided overviews, users can seek help from a team of Essentials Coaches during their 14-day free trial and for the first 90 days after subscribing to the system. The coaches provide support in a one-on-one chat.
No cost increase for subscribers
Over the last 18 months, Salesforce Essentials has seen six major releases and gained new partnerships. Despite those additions, there's no price increase; it will continue to be available to small business owners for $25 per month. The service also has a 14-day free trial.