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Cloud Customer Service: 3 Top Solutions Compared

Cloud Customer Service: 3 Top Solutions Compared

Cloud customer service software promises to transform help from cost center to cash cow. Here are the 3 top solutions compared.

Customer service is the system everyone loves to hate. Customers for sure. But the time, effort, and cost it takes to provide customer support makes it just as loathsome for those of you on the other end of the line, too.

If it's a migraine now, just wait. Customers are communicating in real time through mobile phones, SMS, Twitter, Facebook, you name it. And as they do more and more of them expect you to respond just as quickly -- within an hour, according to one study.

In fact, your help desk may soon have you screaming "Mayday" -- and not just because you need to be rescued from disaster. In case you haven't heard, "Mayday" is the name of the new button Amazon added to its newly launched Kindle Fire HDX. Press it and, holy free shipping, it'll connect you to a live customer service rep via a streaming video link within 15 seconds.

Mayday and its 15-second response time represents just one of the new benchmarks overtaking customer service, support, and IT help desks, or so notes Brian Vellmure, a market analyst at consulting firm Innovantage who's provided in-depth evaluations of three cloud-based customer support platforms for this brief buyer's guide produced in conjunction with

Vellmure also notes an "absolute trend" away from live, phone support and those ghastly interactive voice response systems in favor of Web-based customer-support applications that let users reach out through a variety of digital channels chat, SMS, social media and into knowledge repositories where they can help themselves.

In some cases, these Web tools promise to transform customer support from a cost center into profit center by turning once deeply disturbed, endlessly kvetching customers into self-help communities of brand champions.

There are dozens of cloud customer support platforms -- Lithium, Kana, Parature, and Moxie, to name a few. Some, like Lithium, target big enterprises or have evolved into what market research firm Forrester has dubbed "social-depth platforms" that extend beyond customer support into marketing tools that curry customers through social media content and experiences.

But for the purposes of this report, we chose three platforms either most representative of a new cadre of cloud-based customer service apps or of the new capabilities emerging out of the segment. We also focused on Web tools more appropriate for use by small to medium-size businesses.

About the Author

Patrick Houston is the Editor in Chief of, a new service devoted to helping companies choose and use the cloud services on which they increasingly live and breath by providing independent and in-depth reviews.

Two of them -- Zendesk Plus and Salesforce -- offer one central interface for support agents to effectively respond to customers whether they’re reaching out by phone, email, Twitter, or Facebook. A third, Get Satisfaction is a pioneer in transforming plain old customer support centers into communities that empower customers to help themselves and each other.

All have achieved market traction. They've attracted marquee customers. And they've all become leaders in enabling customer support interactions over new and evolving social/digital channels.

Zendesk is arguably the leading cloud customer service platform for small businesses — and also seems to be moving its capabilities upstream., a service of cloud pioneer Salesforce, mixes power with an easy-to-use interface. Get Satisfaction is a leading community vendor, with a strong client base of startups, small and medium businesses, and global brands, and integrates with a number of other platforms (including ZenDesk and