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Salesforce Shows Off New Voice Feature in 2016 Update

Guest starring ... Twilio!


Cloud software company set the table for the coming year by taking the wraps off a bunch of new features coming to its twice-a-year product updates in 2016. It also shook up the pricing on some of its service tiers.

The one new feature that sticks out in Lightning, the name given to this year’s iterations of the sales cloud applications that runs via Web browsers and mobile devices, is Lightning Voice. It gives a sales rep the ability to place a phone call to a customer directly from within the app, to log those calls and to forward incoming calls as needed.

And while Salesforce didn’t mention it, I can tell you that the feature was built using software development tools from Twilio, whose CEO, Jeff Lawson, was spotted at the event sitting next to Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris. Twilio is a cloud service that allows software developers to easily add voice calling and messaging features to their apps, and is used by Uber and Airbnb, among others. Salesforce also happens to be a Twilio investor. Lawson confirmed that Salesforce had used Twilio in a direct message exchange on Twitter.

Another feature is SalesforceIQ Inbox, which was built around RelateIQ, a Palo Alto-based startup that Salesforce bought in 2014 for $390 million. It turns your email inbox into a customer relationship manager application by adding a layer of relationship intelligence, grabbing information about contacts from your calendar and simplifying the process of keeping track of leads, opportunities and schedules.

The company also adjusted the pricing on different tiers of both its sales cloud and service cloud products. Each now has three tiers of service, dubbed professional, enterprise and unlimited, which start at $75 per user per month and rise to $300 per user per month.

The news capped a busy day for Salesforce (the company also promoted Keith Block to COO). Meanwhile, its shares fell following a rumor — one that was traced back to this tweet — hinting that the company had lost a major customer.

Salesforce didn’t comment on the rumor, but Mark Murphy, an analyst at J.P. Morgan, slapped it down in a brief research note saying there was no evidence of a customer loss, citing industry contacts, and that even if it were to happen, Salesforce has a diverse enough customer base that it wouldn’t matter. Even so, Salesforce shares declined by $3.86 to close at $64.56, or more than 5 percent.

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