Salesforce.com: Burning RubberBy Baselinemag | Posted 2005-11-08 Print
Salesforce.com wins kudos for its flexible, easy-to-roll-out approach, but its hyper-growth has concerned some.
Some customers give Salesforce.com nothing but high fives, but others say it has grown at such a blistering pacefrom 76,000 users in 2003 to 308,000 by mid-2005that it hasn't always been able to keep up with their needs.
R.L. Polk & Co., a provider of automotive marketing information, has used Salesforce.com since 2001 for about 250 sales and marketing staffers. Wanda Dembeck, Polk's vice president of global initiatives, likes its pay-as-you-go approach and says the application is flexible enough to handle long-sales-cycle teams as well as telemarketing groups that close sales in minutes.
But Dembeck says she's sometimes frustrated by Salesforce.com's "low-seniority" technical support employees: "Sometimes it feels like we're training them.... So many people bought the tool, they're now scrambling to catch up." Moreover, Salesforce.com is difficult to work with outside North America because each international office operates independently, says Dembeck: "We've gone global. They're still trying to do that." (Asked for a response, a Salesforce.com spokesman says: "We're proud of our 95% customer-satisfaction rate, but if even one customer isn't satisfied, we aren't either.")
Meanwhile, Honeywell's specialty materials division, which has used Salesforce.com for 500 sales and marketing employees for three years, has found service to be top-notch. "They really focus on their customer service," says John Vantuno, the division's information-technology program manager. "They do practice what they preach."
That hasn't been Martin Payne's experience. "If you're a small customer, the account team they put on you just doesn't understand the product," says Payne, vice president of business development and client relations at Hanger Orthopedic Group. The prosthetic device maker has 75 salespeople and executives using the system.
Payne says he relied on an Atlanta consulting firm, GrowthCircle, to deploy the application: "Salesforce.com just backed up the truck, offloaded the product and drove away." Salesforce.com says it recommends working with one of its 41 consulting partners to help with setup.
For Chris Ground, senior vice president of national accounts for biomedical products supplier FFF Enterprises, Salesforce.com's rapid growth "concerns me a little bit, because service can decline." He says Salesforce.com has done a very good job since FFF went live with it in early 2005, but adds, "As they grow, we'll continue to keep our eye on them."
SALESFORCE.COM OPERATING RESULTS*
* Fiscal year ends Jan. 31; FYTD reflects first six months
Total assets $323.68M
Stockholders' equity $165.40M Cash and equivalents $25.14M
Short-term investments $109.27M
Long-term debt $1.17M
Shares outstanding 117.97M
Market value, 10/28 $2.65B
**As of July 31, 2005, except as noted
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