Salesforce adds functionality to automate field service and empower the end customer

Salesforce adds functionality to automate field service and empower the end customer

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Have you ever had an engineer show up to install something in your home and found that something else needed to be fixed first? Whether it’s a broadband connection, solar panels or a smart meter, the growing complexity of our homes, offices and factories today calls for greater sophistication in how field service teams are managed and businesses need to keep up. Salesforce today announces new features in its Field Service offering to help businesses continue to improve the efficiency and responsiveness of their service operations.

Paul Whitelam, SVP and GM of Field Service Management at Salesforce, highlights several trends affecting the industry the announcements are targeting, ranging from data privacy and compliance concerns to an ongoing skill challenge. The bigger picture is the universally felt need for organizations to be agile and respond to change, which includes meeting customers where they are and working more collaboratively. Features like remote assistance and self-service scheduling are a response to customers who expect more engagement, as he explains:

Customer empowerment is a really important part of this, as they don’t just have to wait for someone to knock on their door and come over to see what’s going on. They can be very proactive in getting a diagnosis, understanding the nature of the problem before deciding anything. This has really changed the dynamic a bit, I think, in the relationship with the service provider.

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  • Planning and optimization are gaining the ability to handle service jobs that require several steps and different technical skills, such as upgrading the external power supply to a home before installing new equipment with a higher rating or organizing an inspection compliance before commissioning new jobs. Now in beta, this allows companies to chain these steps together so that shippers can see complex jobs in their entirety and better manage worker capacity.
  • This advanced planning and optimization engine will run on the new Hyperforce public cloud infrastructure, giving customers the ability to choose which region their data is stored in.
  • Lightning Web Components is coming to the Field Service mobile app, giving you more flexibility to customize the technician experience with advanced features and workflows. Currently in a pilot phase, this will allow companies to customize the mobile app with their own workflow automation or support varying processes for different regions and markets. Systems integrators and partners will also have the opportunity to build industry-specific applications.
  • Appointment Assistant has been extended to allow for self-service scheduling by customers. Now generally available, this gives customers the ability to follow the link by notifying them of the appointment time, then schedule, cancel, confirm, or reschedule that appointment or appointment window. Behind the scenes, the system automatically calculates technician schedules and service resources to deliver revised and efficient appointment times for the service provider.
  • Visual Remote Assistant has added two-way video so agents and customers can collaborate over a video connection to solve problems. This is augmented with features like barcode and character recognition, along with the ability for a consultant to annotate a screenshot. Additionally, now generally available, this can be used as a triage step, automatically triggered based on the characteristics of a support ticket, with the agent providing step-by-step guidance to help the customer resolve the issue without requiring a call back. a technician. Technicians can also use the feature on their own when on-site to get on-the-job training or to consult with colleagues for advice.
  • Following yesterday’s announcement of an expanded DocuSign partnership with Salesforce, a new integration with DocuSign Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) will link warranty agreement and service level agreement (SLA) data directly into the Service Cloud. This will allow customers to automate the way they track, enforce and update the terms of the agreement between departments and in the field, ensuring that the service is provided in accordance with those terms.

Empower the customer

The benefit to service providers of customer-facing features such as remote assistance and self-service scheduling is that they help save resources. Whitelam explains;

You don’t want the customer to not be able to change their appointment or else you will roll the truck and they won’t be there. So you have to give them this option …

The end is ultimately to repair that resource or provide that service. If you can do this through a remote visual assistant feature, rather than rolling a truck, of course, that’s great for everyone. It is great for organizing the service in terms of cost and is great for the customer.

Remote assistance also helps you make the most of your scarce skills and knowledge. He elaborates:

The capacity of skilled technicians is decreasing as the workforce ages and so on. So it’s even more important to be able to bring knowledge to solve a particular service problem – it’s also about getting that intelligence where it’s needed instantly.

So digital channels and especially Visual Remote Assistant allow for the ubiquity of these rare skills.

While Salesforce’s field service offering is often associated with large field service teams at public services and the like, it also has a large number of mid-range customers with as little as 25-50 seats. It is especially relevant when the service is not highly repeatable or encounters a lot of on-site variation, such as roofing or lawn care services. He explains:

When you don’t have the fungibility of assets and you need to make sure you have the right person in the right place with the right parts at the right time, then this becomes a much more challenging problem that lends itself to the automation and artificial intelligence we have packaged and made available to smaller organizations …

They definitely need to have visibility into where their mobile workforce is and have some understanding of what they need to solve the specific problems that arise on a daily basis.

My opinion

At one point in our conversation, Whitelam mentioned that some in the industry are debating whether remote assistance counts as a field service anymore, since the engineer is no longer in the field. I thought it was an interesting insight into enterprise-centric thinking that still surrounds many long-standing functions. From my point of view, it is quite clear. The customer is still in the field, as is the asset. Obviously he is still field service, even if the engineer is sitting at the headquarters or even logging in from his own home. And if you break that business-centered mindset and become more XaaS in your way of thinking, then you start to consider new ways to help the client get the best result, including working collaboratively to solve their problem, or even, to how revolutionary it is – allowing them to solve the problem on their own, maybe next time without even having to record a service call.

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