AI, IoT, and CRM, three acronyms.
However, these three belong together and should not be treated or looked at separately. One important reason for this is that companies and organizations can provide significantly better service experiences and, more importantly, results, by combining the capabilities behind these acronyms.
Good field service not only gets dispatched smartly but also equipped with the right parts and, ideally, in a proactive manner. This can get delivered by the combination of Field Service, AI, and IoT data.
That’s why I found Salesforce’s early December announcement of having added a component “IoT insights” to its Field Service Lightning product quite interesting.
As the press release said, this capability enables service agents and representatives to see IoT signals together with other CRM data, so that the triple p of personalized, proactive, even predictive service is possible. After all, Einstein is embedded into Field Service Lightning for quite some time now.
Doing so, Salesforce wisely did not implement yet another IoT platform but enabled its system to ingest data from existing IoT platforms, thus sticking to the core competencies of the company.
The solution helps in three areas:
- Enabling of early issue anticipation (rather than detection, which is responsive) and remote diagnosis
- Providing agents with more relevant information, to speed up issue resolution
- And automation via rules and workflows.
Says Paolo Bergamo, SVP and GM, Salesforce Field Service Lightning:
Let me first clarify that we’re not competing with IoT platforms from the likes of AWS IoT or Azure IoT. Our solution extends the value of these platforms – they provide streams of device data that then flow into our CRM to feed business processes. For example, AWS IoT gathers the IoT data from a connected machine, that then flows into our CRM. The company servicing that machine can automatically set rules to create a ticket and deploy a field technician in the event that machine requires servicing.
So where we really differentiate is on two fronts – customer context and empowering employees. By providing companies a way to connect the world’s #1 CRM with IoT data, we give them the ability to better understand their customers, prioritize accordingly, and provide world class service. What we see is that companies have historically only used IoT data for operational improvements, not to improve the customer experience. We’re changing that, and actually helping companies connect their IoT data with business processes so they can act on that data quickly and effectively, for the customer’s benefit. Secondarily we empower employees to deliver their best work, both via access to data for mobile field workers to be productive in their work and also for the business users who need to access that data.
If you’re looking for specifics, I’d say that:
- Service agents can have a better picture of the problem with paired CRM/IoT data and previous case resolution (e.g. they can see what sort of warranty the customer has, alongside the device diagnostics, and immediately understand the type of service they should be delivering)
- Dispatchers can be more efficient in dispatching (they know who to send, what equipment to send the technician with)
- Automatic dispatching can be applied based on contracts and urgency of the fault, helping prioritization and alleviating rote work so the dispatcher can focus on higher level tasks
My Point of View and Analysis
Salesforce delivered a very valuable improvement of its solution. It, however, is nothing that makes people hold their breath. I’d put it into the category of keeping up with the game. Other companies are talking and acting on this topic for several years already. Think of ServiceMax. And it is nothing that the immediate competition cannot offer in a similar way. Think of SAP and, even more so, Microsoft. But then these two are not that far into productized IoT scenarios in customer service yet.
So, having this functionality is important, especially as there are already more devices than humans connected to the Internet, with a trend that shows strongly upwards. Statista expects the number of IoT devices to rise to more than 75 billion by 2025. While forecasts are just that – forecasts – they all have one thing in common: predicting a steep increase of connected devices.
And customer service is only the starter. The race will continue in the marketing arena. While we will not see scenarios like in Black Mirror or Minority report anytime too soon (thanks to privacy regulations) lots of scenarios that involve context can be thought of – the simplest one being the ages old fridge that reports out-of-stock to its owner. Some of Hubspot’s thinking is here.
For Salesforce it is a wise move to not build an own IoT platform but building value added services on top of them. An IoT platform is just too far off Salesforce’s own value proposition and core competency. In contrast to turning the raw data delivered by the sensors into actionable insight and process.
As far as I do see it, Salesforce, as well as SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft, now need to show and deliver a range of integrated IoT, AI, and bot scenarios that provide significant value to their customers.
IoT is already an important channel to be supported. In order to be able to deliver superior experiences, companies need to make use of it. The integration of devices as sensors and actuators, in the context of real-time processes, is key here. Companies will look at their vendors to deliver best-of-breed here.