Join Your Customers In the Cloud

Twenty years ago, customer service was all about picking up the phone and having a conversation with an expert who could help with any concerns.

Today, more than 50% of customers are forgoing traditional methods of customer service (phone, e-mail, and chat) and looking to the Internet—the "cloud"—to gain access to information and get their questions answered. In fact, your customers are likely already having conversations about your company on the Internet in discussion forums, social networks, blogs, and enthusiast Web sites.

But where are you in this picture? Many companies are finding themselves locked out of these conversations, unable to leverage the expertise of the cloud and losing touch with what really matters to their customers.

Following are some tips I recommend to help small businesses engage with customers:

1. Develop a presence on social networks, such as Facebook, and provide customers information about products and services. Join the conversation, and engage customers with promotions, contests, and exclusive content.

2. Monitor the conversations happening on Twitter that concern your company. The fast-growing microblogging platform can amplify any customer complaint, but using that speed of information can be an advantage to your small business. Pay attention to what your customers are saying on Twitter and you can address their concerns quickly, turning an issue into an opportunity for customer loyalty.

3. Build an online community to offer customers a place to have their social conversations about your company and product line. An effective online community is not just self-service, but a place for your customers to interact with others, have discussions, share ideas, or access training.

Savvy companies are reaching their customers where they already are—in the cloud.

Kraig Swensrud Vice-President of Product Marketing Salesforce San Francisco

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