Dreamforce 2013 had a lot to offer. Big speakers, big announcements, big weather, big crowds and much more. Having skipped one iteration (2012) of Salesforce.com’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 Desk.com, 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 Desk.com 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 Desk.com 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.