New Markets: The Wisdom of Your Crowd

Software lets you tap ideas that customers give each other.

Who Is Doing It: A survey by Accenture found that customer satisfaction rates in emerging markets lag behind those in Europe and North America, especially online. Customer relationship management (CRM) vendors like RightNow and Salesforce.com are trying to turn the problem on its head with tools to help companies derive value from customers' conversations on social networks.

How It Works: Salesforce's Answers technology, for example, lets companies create a website for customers to answer each other's questions and rate the responses. The company can then pull the most popular answers into Salesforce's knowledge base, where customers or call center agents can use the information to resolve questions faster. Jim Haskin, CIO with security vendor Websense, plans to use Answers (which is set for release this month) to support potential as well as current clients worldwide. "Quite often, an evaluation period is part of the buying cycle and support comes into play," he says.

Growth Potential: Products like Answers reflect an emerging bridge between social media, CRM and product lifecycle management (PLM), says Ray Wang, a partner with Altimeter Group. PLM sales are estimated to reach up to $40 billion by 2012. Wang says Salesforce's software could help companies feed customers' product ideas and requests into PLM systems.

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