Chatter has been Salesforce.com's (NYSE: CRM) most successful product launch ever, with 20,000 companies using the enterprise collaboration and social networking tool just a few months after its launch.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is himself a big user of the Facebook-like service, claiming that it "freed me from the CEO bubble. I know now what all our employees are doing." Chatter has allowed Benioff to see how the company really works and to notice which employees are making a difference.
So eCRM Guide sat down with Robin Daniels, Salesforce's director of product marketing for Chatter, to learn other ways that Salesforce is putting the collaboration tool to work. Here are a half dozen of them.
1. 'Exploding Connections': Benioff isn't the only one getting in touch with more employees as a result of Chatter. Daniels said Chatter has led to "crowdsourcing from everyone in the company." Questions asked to one employee are often answered by several, with each providing a unique perspective.
2. Tracking Deals in Real-time: Employees update deal status on Chatter so those interested know instantly when a deal has closed. "The data has been brought to life," said Daniels.
3. Discovering Competitors' Weaknesses: Salesforce.com employees debate the merits of competitive offerings like Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 on Chatter, pointing out weak features that could be used to marketing advantage.
4. Sharing Content for Customer Meetings: Sales reps share presentations before customer meetings to get feedback and avoid overlap, thanks to Chatter's absence of file size limits. Employees also share similar product use cases from other customers to make a stronger pitch. "Everyone is sharing a lot more presentations, so when we go to market, it's a lot stronger," said Daniels.
5. Actively Engaged Executives: Senior executives interact with junior employees. Requests for technical information from sales reps on the road are answered within minutes, while the sales meeting is still going on.
6. Integration with Salesforce.com CRM: Daniels said what sets Chatter apart from other collaboration tools like SharePoint and Jive is its integration with Salesforce.com's CRM system. Each deal has its own Chatter feed, increasing collaboration and keeping a record of customer communications.
"It's very hard to do these things on email," said Daniels. Typical Chatter users see a 25 percent increase in collaboration, a 10 percent increase in productivity, and a 15 to 20 percent drop in email, he said.
Chatter's latest release includes filters for people, groups, files, accounts, contracts and opportunities, giving users a number of options for following people and business opportunities.
"It brings companies closer together," he said. "It brings an element of fun and excitement."
Chatter is free for Salesforce CRM users, and $15 a month for standalone users.