posted on 5/24/2011 12:47:26 PM
The automaker signs with CRM provider Salesforce.com to create a customer-only online and mobile community in the vein of Facebook and other social networks, with telematics built in.
Toyota is taking customer relationship management (CRM) to a new level.
The global automaker will use technology from CRM purveyor Salesforce.com to create a gated online and mobile community for Toyota customers. The carmaker and the CRM provider have signed a strategic alliance, Salesforce.com announced today, to build Toyota Friend, described in a statement as a “private social network for Toyota customers and their cars.”
Using Salesforce’s Chatter technology, which debuted in 2010 as a business-grade social networking tool, Toyota will test this evolution of CRM in Japan with electric cars and plug-in hybrids that are due to hit the streets in 2012.
Though details were relatively limited, the companies said that Toyota owners who register with Toyota Friend will be connected “with their cars, their dealership, and with Toyota,” and will have access through the network to product information and maintenance tips. If an owner’s hybrid vehicle is running short on battery power, for instance, the Toyota Friend network will alert that customer to the condition via a short message similar to those exchanged on Twitter, according to the statement. Members will be able to access the community through smartphones, tablet computers, and other mobile devices.
In recent years, many companies have rushed to establish a presence in the greenfields of social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, creating communities of customers and fans there. Toyota’s new CRM effort is distinctive because of its closed nature and its reliance on telematics, which connects a driver directly to information on a car’s status.
“To date, [Toyota Motor Co.] has developed its own telematics services to connect people, cars, and their surroundings,” the statement read. “Through Toyota Friend, TMC aims to offer its telematics services worldwide. Moving forward, TMC plans to advance toward the realization of future mobility by teaming up proactively with global IT companies.”
Toyota President Akio Toyoda said this latest iteration of customer relationship management is a natural evolution for the auto industry. "Social networking services are transforming human interaction and modes of communication,” he said in the statement. “The automobile needs to evolve in step with that transformation.”
The relationship between Toyota and Salesforce.com appears to extend well beyond this initial collaborative effort. In the future, the pair will work to create services for Toyota’s open cloud platform (powered by Microsoft Azure) and explore additional market opportunities, they said. The carmaker has already created subsidiary Toyota Media Service Co. to manage development of the company’s cloud platform. Salesforce.com will invest 223 million yen in the media arm, which complements Microsoft’s 350 million yen infusion. Toyota and Microsoft announced last month that together they would build a global platform for telematics services.