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There aren't many CEOs who'd hire the Beach Boys to break into "Good Vibrations"  in the middle of a keynote address. Then again, there aren't any technology evangelists quite like Marc Benioff.

After spending an hour promoting the charitable efforts of Salesforce.com, the Salesforce CEO cued the band to fire-up the crowd. After the final chorus, he explained how Salesforce's new analytics cloud — called Wave — will help his company become a customer success platform.

Yesterday's speech was the centerpiece of the four-day Dreamforce conference, which more than 140,000 registered to attend in Salesforce's hometown. 

The Analytics Game

"When you look at Wave you're going to see an incredible new interface, a game-inspired interface. It's incredibly fast, built on a new metaphor of search-based analytics," Benioff said, as he moved around the enormous hall, microphone in hand. "And of course it's all integrated into our customer success platform."

Then the Beach Boys sang again: "Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the world."

Cloud-based analytics is increasingly important in a big data world, and companies like Google, IBM, Microsoft, Amazon and others all offer analytics as part of their cloud services.

It's logical for Salesforce to launch Wave in light of its focus on customer success, which relies on predictive analysis to assess how well customers are using a particular service. Analysis can tell a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendor how much time a customer spends on the service, which apps they run regularly and the last time they used it.

The Subscription Economy

As more services like software are purchased online through a subscription rather than in a box through a one-time transaction, the data-intensive field of customer success has grown. The so-called subscription economy rests on the reality that vendors must pay constant attention to a customer's health rather than relying on a traditional sales cycle. If their health is poor, the vendor's team can step in quickly offer help.

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Benioff said there are now trillions of customer interactions that have created "an imperative of engagement, an imperative to connect." 

The challenge, he said, was that even though we have built billions of connected devices, customers remain disconnected from the marketers, salespeople and other employees of many companies.

"We know that if you connect, you engage deeply," he said. "Our vision at Salesforce is simple: it's to build that customer success platform."

Wave will go online next Monday, but whether it will transform a customer relationship management (CRM) leader into a customer success platform remains to be seen. 

Customer Success Challenge

Guy Nirpaz, CEO of the customer success firm Totango, noted there are two parts to customer success -- managing the underlying data platform and leveraging that data to provide customer success services through applications. 

“And I don’t think Salesforce is there yet," Nirpaz told CMSWire. "You can’t just take a CRM system and rename it something else every year.”

In the past, Salesforce has depended heavily on the apps built by its partners, and that's likely the game plan for its customer success efforts. Gainsight, a Salesforce Ventures-backed company that specializes in customer success, introduced "Gainsight for the Analytics Cloud" during the show, providing such a customer success app.

"Obviously, we're super excited Salesforce is adopting customer success into its messaging," Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight told us in an interview just before Dreamforce. 

In a news release this week, Mehta said "we've empowered our customers with predictive health scoring to reach their customers at the right time with the right value. Analytics cloud [Wave] provides the strongest foundation for their needed predictive insights."

More Dreamforce News

In his pitch for Wave, Benioff also stressed that he's well tuned to the needs of mobile apps. That led in to a segment focusing on the launch of Salesforce1 Lightning, which the company claims provides business users a quick way to build apps for any mobile device. 

Lightning features the same development framework that the company uses internally, components like search and navigation, the app builder itself, a tool to visually automate processes, a community designer and a schema builder that enable non-technical users to add objects and data fields without writing any code. 

Separately, Demandbase, another Salesforce Ventures-backed company, announced a new Sales Accelerator app designed specifically for B2B and marketing teams. The tool pushes data from advertising and web site traffic into Salesforce1. Demandbase officials said it will help to identify high quality selling opportunities, shortening the sales cycle.  

Title image posted by Salesforce on Twitter. Benioff photo: Salesforce