"Salesforce.com has amazing focus on the partner community, making it a great choice for Stone Cobra’s targeted efforts."
— Amanda Roberts, co-founder and CEO, Stone Cobra
Stone Cobra takes a bite out of service and support costs with Force.com
“When people hear the name ‘Stone Cobra,’ they expect something totally different,” says Amanda Roberts, CEO. “We’re not a professional wrestling team, an ’80s band, or a malt liquor. We’re a technology company with deep expertise in service and support.” The Roseville, CA-based company was founded in 2001 by experienced CRM managers who were entrepreneurs at heart. Today, the company is a leading provider of enterprise software and services that help clients improve their service and support operations. Stone Cobra does more than just charm its clients: With help from the Force.com platform, its solutions are rock solid.
According to Roberts, “At Stone Cobra, we don’t define ourselves as either consultants or ISVs. We’re experts in service and support—and active members of all the leading service and support industry groups. We just happen to have the background and know-how to build the products our clients need, integrate their systems, and leverage all the knowledge management and CRM apps on the market today.”
A typical Stone Cobra engagement might include helping a customer find new ways to boost call center capacity, cut handling time, reduce escalations, increase deflection and self-service, or reduce service and support costs. The company works with a variety of cloud-based and on-premises solutions, and provides both custom product development and professional services.
“It’s difficult to put us in a box,” Roberts says, “but we like it that way. Our uniqueness is that we take best practices in service and support and translate them with technology. We like challenges we can sink our teeth into. Most of all, we enjoy being known as the experts in our domain.”
Stone Cobra first encountered salesforce.com as a CRM customer. After the launch of Force.com, Roberts and her team immediately started building applications with the new platform. “The first apps we built were for our own use,” she explains. “Our developers wanted to try out Force.com and see if they could break it.” Their initial efforts produced a hiring app and a resource management tool. The company ultimately standardized on Force.com for its internal operations.
Although Stone Cobra management was pleased with the internal apps built on Force.com, it wasn’t until salesforce.com announced its focus on service that Stone Cobra decided to use Force.com to kick-start its products business. “We knew and loved salesforce.com for its CRM products, but our concentration was on service and support. When salesforce.com announced that service was its next area of focus, we knew we needed to be part of it. We made a strategic decision to cooperate with CRM vendors rather than compete with them—and we chose Force.com as the first platform for our products.”
Stone Cobra’s first Force.com-based offering, BlackCRM, was released in Fall 2009. Used in conjunction with the Service Cloud, BlackCRM supports case management with industry-recognized best practices for problem-solving, decision-making, knowledge management, performance analysis, and collaboration.
The company’s second Force.com offering, PIIT Viper, debuted at Dreamforce 2009. PIIT Viper is a full featured IT Help Desk application to facilitate efficient problem and incident management. PIIT Viper addresses the requirements of ITIL® volume four, Service Operation , and is typically used by the internal or outsourced IT group that handles employees’ technology issues. Both applications are available through salesforce.com’s OEM and VAR programs. PIIT Viper is also available on the AppExchange.
In addition to its two products, the company also has a thriving services business. Roberts explains, “Today’s enterprise organizations often have multiple CRM systems—which need to play nicely together. This can be a real challenge, and that’s where Stone Cobra comes in. Our team specializes in making our customer’s legacy world (existing bug databases, knowledge bases, and legacy CRM systems) cooperate with the cloud computing world of salesforce.com.”
Force.com helped Stone Cobra get BlackCRM and PIIT Viper to market more quickly than if it had used alternative platforms. Roberts says, “It would have taken us 9 months to a year to build an app from the ground up. It only took between 3 and 4 months on Force.com.” Roberts’s team built both applications with Force.com pages (Visualforce) and Force.com code (Apex).
"We’ve also built solutions on Clarify and Remedy. It was so much easier to work with Force.com, and it has the APIs and tool sets to help partners be successful. There are no ridiculous barriers and no big costs,” says Roberts.
Roberts plans to continue working with Force.com. “The relationship salesforce.com has with its partners is special. Not only is the company open to partners, but it really values how the expertise of smaller companies can add depth to its ecosystem. Salesforce.com has amazing focus on the partner community, making it a great choice for Stone Cobra’s targeted efforts.”
Stone Cobra is a member of the Salesforce.com Consulting Partner and Force.com VAR programs, and also uses the Force.com OEM Embedded license. Roberts explains, “We like having options. With the VAR program, we have the opportunity to tap into a new recurring revenue source based on our implementation and integration services.”
She continues, “The embedded license lets us maintain the independence and flexibility we need to sell our Force.com-based products. With some customers, we need to get our foot in the door without overwhelming them with multiple contracts and complex pricing.”
“The great thing about having both the VAR program and the embedded license is that we can decide what’s best for our clients and how we want to sell it. We’re also able to decide what we want to sell and whether it’s a visible line item or part of a bundled service.”
Stone Cobra’s past customers include marquee names like 3M, Google, Juniper Networks, Nokia, SAP, Sun Microsystems, Toyota, and Williams-Sonoma. Roberts says, “We tend to work with Fortune 500, global 1,000 companies, or medium to large call centers that are focusing on knowledge-centered support best practices. Many of them are repeat customers—they trust us to continually deliver solutions that help their businesses.”
Historically, a majority of Stone Cobra’s business was professional services. Since the release of BlackCRM and PIIT Viper, the tides have changed, and now the company’s new business centers around its Force.com products. “Our products help companies that were already considering salesforce.com understand that it can meet all their service and support needs,” Roberts explains.
She adds, “We grew 120 percent in headcount in 2009 during one of the worst economic years on record. We believe salesforce.com played a key role in helping us buck the downsizing trend.”
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