November 2013 - The Service Council

The Internet of Customers is More than a Dream: Notes from Dreamforce 2013

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Dreamforce 2013 had a lot to offer. Big speakers, big announcements, big weather, big crowds and much more. Having skipped one iteration (2012) of’s (Salesforce) annual user event, I was interested to see if Salesforce’s customer-centric message had caught the eye of service and customer experience practitioners. Judging from the 130,000+ overall attendees, it seems like the message was extremely well received.

The big announcements at this year’s event revolved around the release of the new Salesforce1 platform, one that streamlines the development of mobile-focused apps primarily for developers and ISV partners. This platform allows an updated mobile development experience (as noted by a number of service executives spoken to) when compared with previous Salesforce Touch Applications. In addition to the platform, the most significant push was around the incorporation of the ‘Internet of Things’ into CRM therefore enabling organizations to directly view data pulled from their connected devices within the Salesforce console. As Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff noted, “ Behind every connected device is a customer” therefore making the Internet of Customers a vital cog of Salesforce’s broader customer engagement strategy.

The Service Cloud keynote session offered up new capabilities for the contact center to support a multi-channel and omni-channel experience. Primarily the new capabilities were tied to co-browse, mobile support, and predictive analytics along with further updates (over 100 made in 2013) around knowledge management and case feeds. The keynote featured a wonderful live demo of an end-to-end service process starting in the contact center and dispatch and ending with a field service technician resolving a service issue with the aid of a mobile application. The keynote also laid out the inclusion of support intelligence for, Salesforce’s all-in-one support tool for small service organizations.

These are just a handful of announcements tied to service-related product releases. My general thoughts:

  • The new platform has significant implications on the development of mobile customer support applications, especially those driving self-service, communities and more. Our research shows that 43% of organizations are looking to ramp up their self-service efforts in 2014, with 33% looking for enhanced mobile customer service capabilities.
  • In field service, most applications have already made the leap towards being mobile-ready. In fact, all of the field service partners assembled at Dreamforce in the form of ClickSoftware, ServiceMax and TOA Technologies have well-developed mobile applications for field service (At the event, ServiceMax released an app built on the Salesforce1 platform). For these organizations, the new platform may impact the ease with which new capabilities and functionality can be added, but once again these applications are already quite mobile in nature. The platform will make it easier for end user organizations to develop their own application components with functionality that resides outside their traditional field service apps.
  • Currently, the new platform does not support offline capabilities, a big need at the field service level, especially in industries like medical devices, oil and gas and utilities. This has to be addressed for the field service industry.
  • Salesforce’s shoulder behind the Internet of Things is a big endorsement and will have far reaching consequences on the speed with which we see the development of new M2M (Machine to Machine) -oriented apps. Salesforce will have to provide further guidance on how machine data will seamlessly flow into its CRM system, an area where M2M partners Axeda and Digi (Etherios) will play a much larger role.  Once again, Salesforce’s focus is much more on connecting with consumer devices, but its push on the Internet of Things will also hasten the interest in connected devices at the enterprise level. The example of Philips Healthcare shared with connected toothbrushes and Ultrasound machines reveals how Salesforce can be partner to support both consumer and enterprise M2M models. In service delivery, remote connectivity is not a new concept especially in the medical device and utility communities, but the notion of connected assets is picking up steam. In The Service Council’s latest research on service transformation, 64% of responding organizations (n=150) indicated that data captured directly from connected products and equipment would impact their service delivery processes in the next 3 years.
  • I really like Salesforce’s scalable roadmap for customer service solutions where small organizations can commence with and then transition over to the Service Cloud when they need deeper functionality. Most customer service software vendors fail to establish a clear roadmap for scale and treat their SMB and enterprise solutions as two completely different units. Even if its just marketing talk, building a connection between the two is powerful especially for the next generation’s enterprises. Inclusion of reporting in is also a significant move as reporting and intelligence tools are in high demand for customer service organizations of all sizes.
  • Speaking of connections, Salesforce has the opportunity to truly differentiate itself in the customer experience space by showing a cohesive picture of how broader customer management organizations can use its various clouds and tools to collaborate across the organization. This is more than the use of Chatter but a real case of enabling Service, Sales and Marketing to work together to become a truly customer-centric business entity. Currently, all the solutions seem very silo-ed and focused on specific business functions.
  • As seen at KronosWorks a week earlier, wearables were all the rage specifically around their ability to capture and report on valuable data that can then be used to monitor, aid or enable customers, field reps and more.

In addition to the announcements and demos, there was also the matter of excellent discussions with Marissa Mayer, CEO and President of Yahoo, and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Both spoke well about changes in the industry albeit with different lenses. Mayer speaking more of her leadership style and focus while Sandberg dedicated her session towards the Lean In movement and the need for more equality in the executive ranks. These sessions can be found online here.

Social Customer Service: Listening Isn’t Enough

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

The other day, I had the opportunity to log into a discussion regarding social customer service featuring folks from SAP and T-Mobile as well as customer service evangelist Shep Hyken. You can view the discussion replay here

My interest in the topic was high given TSC’s recent research on multi-channel support that revealed that 52% of organizations viewed social as the channel on which they expected the greatest increase in customer activity for service in the next 12 months. As a result, 68% of organizations were looking to enable social as a support and engagement channel or to increase resources dedicated to social as a channel.

There are statistics aplenty about the volume of discussions and interactions occurring on social and businesses everywhere (including those supporting other businesses) are acting on the inclusion of social into their customer service and customer engagement efforts. I was particularly drawn to the example presented by T-Mobile wherein they highlighted how they are using social to deliver support to some 43m customers in the United States alone. When T-Mobile embarked on its social journey in early 2012 the organization had a half a million fans and followers, a group that has grown to approximately 5m followers. To mange social interactions, T-Mobile has formed a dedicated team called T-Force that leverages a social listening tool from SAP to track customer activity. A couple of thoughts on the use of social as an engagement channel from the T-Mobile interview:

1- Social initiatives begin with Marketing

Our research shows that social as a channel is owned primarily by marketing for messaging and advertising. However, the reach of social is much more when considering the role that satisfied and loyal customers can play in advocating and promoting your brand. As a result, social initiatives should be owned by a cross-functional team comprising at least of service, sales and marketing.

2- Social is primarily used as a listening tool

Kudos to T-Mobile for following a 3-step path to customer engagement around social – Listen, Engage, Resolve. Most social programs are still primarily tied to listening activities with some promotion and advocacy. Resolution isn’t the strong suit of most programs, as this requires:

  • Dedicated resources with the right tools and knowledge
  • Well-defined escalation and integration paths with other support channels-email, chat, and even voice

3- Social isn’t just a voice replacement play. To be effective social augments and enhances the traditional support ecosystem.

Social programs need to be integrated with traditional support channels to drive resolution (point above) and therefore the social team cannot and should not operate in isolation.

4- Listen, Engage, Resolve and Learn

I would add one stage to the T-Mobile social engagement process, and that is ‘Learn’. With the volume of comments, interactions and requests occurring on social, the analysis of that data can offer organizations the ability to predict future occurrences or outcomes enabling these organizations to become more predictive in the delivery of information across multiple channels.

Feel free to access a replay of the discussion and share your thoughts. One of the most interesting comments on the session came from T-Mobile, “You know that you’re on the right path when you see the conversations shift from purely negative complaints to an increasing volume of positive and collaborative discussions.”

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