When a Call for Help Becomes Big Business

Amazon Mayday Button

Late last year, Amazon introduced the “Mayday” button on its Kindle Fire tablets, which users could tap to access a customer-service representative within a matter of seconds.

At the time, many analysts saw “Mayday” as a response to Apple’s much-lauded Genius Bars, which require the customer actually visit an Apple Store. But the first response to Amazon isn’t coming from Apple; it’s Salesforce stepping up to the proverbial plate with Salesforce1 Service Cloud SOS, which allows enterprise customers to place an “SOS” button inside any mobile app.

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“As the mobile device becomes every consumer’s channel of choice, it is important companies meet their customers where they are,” Alex Bard, EVP and GM of Salesforce’s Service Cloud, wrote in a statement. “With Salesforce1 Service Cloud SOS, companies will be able to transform the way they connect with their customers for the mobile era.”

As mobile apps have become a key channel for businesses seeking to communicate with customers, it stands to reason that an enterprise IT vendor—if not Salesforce, it might have been Oracle or Cisco—would eventually produce software capable of transforming an app into more of a customer-service platform. Salesforce claims the SOS software, “similar” to the Amazon model, will enable companies to “deliver instant access via live video support to their customers” as well as “agent-guided assistance to their customers within the mobile app on any device, for faster, more personalized customer service.” A private beta will launch in the second half of 2014, for use in native mobile apps with support for Apple’s iOS and Google Android.

In the enterprise-software world, no innovative product is allowed a free market run for very long: If Salesforce’s SOS button proves a success, rivals will surely follow with their own variations on the theme. And if that happens, clients might feel pressure to bulk up their customer-service operations to handle the demand stemming from an easy-to-tap button; for those who build and maintain such operations, that pressure could lead to more work. But it all depends on other companies following Salesforce’s lead.

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Image: Amazon