On June 17, 1019, Salesforce announced an enhancement of its customer service abilities by adding further channels for customer service and adding chatbot capabilities to these channels. This has the goal of offering the ability to create a more seamless service experience by offering engagements on the channels that consumers use. For your easier reference here comes the announcement.
Expanding our Digital Customer Service Capabilities with New Channels and Bot Innovations
Author: Meredith Flynn-Ripley, VP of Digital Engagement, Service Cloud
Disconnected customer service experiences are still far too common. Almost everyone has had to repeat basic information during routine interactions with companies, or found themselves unable to get answers to fairly simple questions on the channel of their choice. In fact, only 16% of consumers say companies excel at delivering connected experiences.
I am happy to report times are changing, for two reasons. First, companies are realizing service can be their main competitive differentiator, and second, today’s empowered and vocal consumers refuse to tolerate bad service. 57% of customers will stop buying from a company not because they don’t like their product, but because a competitor provides better service. Today’s customer demands service on their terms, uses an average of 10 different channels to connect with companies — including messaging, chat, social, email and phone — and expects a personalized and consistent experience across all of them, every single time.
Salesforce empowers companies to deliver on these expectations, with a complete customer service platform that powers connected customer experiences across channels from one central console. And today I’m excited to announce new innovations in Service Cloud that make every digital customer service interaction seamless regardless of whether you are interacting via the web, messaging apps, chat or otherwise.
Expanded reach across digital channels
Say goodbye to the static “Contact Us” page. Our new channel menu gives customers an easy way to start conversations with companies on their preferred messaging and chat channels like, SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or web chat, as well as traditional channels like voice. It can be embedded anywhere in a website including high traffic areas like checkout or home pages. And the channel menu can be set up with as little as four clicks, letting companies avoid expensive and time-consuming development work so they can get up and running right away.
And, with our newly added support for WhatsApp and WeChat as well as existing channels like Facebook Messenger and SMS, companies can reach more customers through messaging than ever before.
Automate service with Einstein Bots in more places
Einstein Bots are now available on multiple new messaging channels including SMS, Facebook Messenger and WeChat. Einstein Bots empower companies to scale their digital customer service by responding to customers immediately, automating routine service requests, gathering basic information and seamlessly handing off the conversation to human agents. And because they are connected to CRM data and processes, and powered by machine learning and natural language processing, Einstein Bots learn your business and get smarter over time.
With Einstein Bots, you don’t have to be a data scientist to take advantage of cutting edge AI capabilities. We’ve made the setup process easier than ever, with a new map view that gives admins a visual guide to help design conversations, ensuring customers won’t get stuck in a dead-end during a service interaction. Dynamic routing directs customers to a specific queue based on their conversation, ensuring customers are on the best path to quick resolution with the right agents. And a new exact match capability lets admins quickly create intent models that train Einstein Bots to quickly recognize what customers are asking for and help them instantly.
These new capabilities are making the service experience completely seamless. For example, a customer looking to replace a credit card can go to their bank’s website and easily access the channel menu. From there, they select the messaging app they prefer, and once in that messaging app, an Einstein Bot can quickly walk the customer through the card replacement process, handing off the interaction to a human agent at any point if necessary.
This is just the latest in a series of recent customer service AI innovations. In March we announced new AI-powered recommendation and routing capabilities that make the service agent console more intelligent and the agent’s job easier. And in April we announced an integration with Google’s DialogFlow that extends the power of Einstein Bots.
Check this out at Salesforce Connections 2019
These and other new innovations will be on display this week at Salesforce Connections 2019, the digital marketing, commerce and customer service event of the year. Mark your calendar for the Service Cloud keynote, taking place Wednesday, June 19, at 10 am Central.
- For more information about how Service Cloud can help you reach customers across digital channels, go to salesforce.com/digital-channels
- Learn about Trailblazers for the Future, our training program that gives contact center managers and agents the soft skills to keep the human side of service alive in the digital era: https://www.salesforce.com/events/trailblazers-for-the-future/
The Channel Menu will be in pilot by Winter 2019. Messaging support for WeChat and WhatsApp, and Einstein Bots for Facebook Messenger and WeChat are all now in pilot. All other features listed are generally available.
The bigger Picture
The customer service market is very contested. Apart from the tier one vendors there are a good number of specialists which have their roots in developing solutions to enable a seamless, cross channel customer service. There are the likes of Freshworks, Helpshift, Intercom, to name just very few. Most of these smaller vendors are rightly positioned as best-of-breed vendors. Nearly all of them claim their ability to easily integrate into an already existing CRM system. Many of them harmonize with more than one of the top-tier CRM platforms (aka suites). Whether the integration claims are right or wrong, and mostly they are right, kinda sorta, this ability creates a serious threat for the suite vendors, as there are enough companies that run multi-vendor strategies. And once a vendor has a foot in the door it has drastically improved its ability to increase the foot print, which usually goes on cost of the platform vendor’s potential foot print.
Therefore it is paramount for the platform vendors to offer functionality and services that are good enough and come at a reasonable price point. And in contrast to other business areas like e.g. marketing it is very easy to show value in customer service.
MyPoV and Analysis
The basic assumption that underlies this announcement is spot on. Customer service is still adversely affected by lacking channel integration. This makes engagement difficult for both sides as an ongoing interaction in context is made more difficult than necessary. The result is a poor customer experience, as the sum of all individual experiences is poor.
Today’s customer expects to be able to be engaged with a brand/business a seamless, channel agnostic way. As I have said and written before, operationalizing Paul Greenbergs very valid definition of customer engagement:
Customer Engagement is the ongoing interaction between company and customer using contact points that are offered by the company and chosen by the customer.
This basically means that companies are wise to offer those contact points (which is more than described by the term touch points that has been usurped by marketing) that are preferred by their customers. As they are businesses they also need to do this in an efficient way. A Salesforce research found that customers use ten different channels to communicate with companies and that consistency across these channels is paramount for them.
Times and again there are studies finding that customers leave a brand for reasons of poor experiences. While I do not fully agree to these studies (most of them are commissioned or conducted by vendors) it can be safely assumed that extreme experiences – good or bad – create lasting memories and therefore impressions and that the most recent experience is the one that has the potential of overriding older impressions. This is where customer service that can be easily found and resolves customer issues with minimal friction for the customer comes into play. It either corrects a poor experience or confirms an already good one.
This is partly addressed by this announcement and the underlying release. Partly, because Salesforce will make it easier to engage on an increasing number of communications channels, especially chat based ones that get increasingly important. Salesforce also demonstrates some scenarios that stretch across channels, like engaging via a web chat and then informing the customer about the upcoming appointment or allowing to change it via text messages. However, the caveat is that the second part of the conversation that uses the other channel – the information about the upcoming appointment – is initiated by the bot, and not by the customer. I haven’t seen a scenario yet that allows the customer to (arbitrarily) change the communications channel with the AI, not a human agent, keeping track of the context. While this might be a stretch goal, it is exactly where we need to get to.
This announcement is not breaking news, but streamlining and an iterative improvement of Salesforces already strong platform. Having said this, there are some useful enhancements, including the upcoming channel menu, the additional channels, and the enhanced visual conversation builder to define conversation flows. This drastically reduces the need for data scientists when building AI capabilities inside the company. Here Salesforce clearly closes a gap to specialists, like Cognigy or the former Recast.ai (now a part of SAP as SAP Conversational AI), to name only two of them.
A good next step for Salesforce could be the building of ontologies for specific topics and the ability to help customers and agents to index and search structured and unstructured documentation, like e.g. empolis does, which can lead to dramatic improvements of search results and speed, which results in better experiences. I’d also like to see a tighter integration between customer service and field service, maybe even including a crowdsourcing capability, like the one SAP acquired from Coresystems. This would fit well into Salesforce being a platform company and into the trend of building ecosystems and even temporary ecosystems to address customer issues. Einstein might even be a helper in lining up the right partners.
Finally, let me formulate a wish, which maybe comes from my German roots: Some of the topics that were announced here are in pilot or will come later this year only. This attempt at freezing a market only shows that the company is not ahead of the curve here. I wish this kind of pre-announcement would not be applied that much.
Just for the record: Not only Salesforce exhibits this not so customer centric strategy.
But maybe Salesforce wants to be better than the rest of the pack.