Salesforce, today, announced the launch of its next-generation field service management product, Salesforce Field Service, in a move to help address the challenges related to COVID in field service.
Paul Whitelam, VP, Product Strategy, Salesforce, talks about the product and its implications on the service industry in an exclusive interview with Dataquest. Gary Brandeleer, Senior Product Director, Salesforce Field Service, walked us through the demo of the new product.
Excerpts of the interview below:
DQ: How is this solution different from previous Field Service solutions that Salesforce offered? What are some features that you have added to this and how can AI-driven recommendations help in Field-Service?
Paul Whitelam: Salesforce Field Service is the next generation solution, which offers new innovations and features such as appointment scheduling/optimization, AI-driven guidance for technicians, and automated customer communications. The AI-powered tools are particularly aimed to equip teams across industries to deliver trusted, mission-critical field service, and help ensure jobs are completed the first time, on time, every time.
Salesforce Field Service innovations include the following:
Dynamic Priority enables dispatchers to focus on the jobs that matter most, with intelligent scheduling and optimization capabilities that automatically prioritize jobs based on the service level agreement or how critical the work is. For example, if a maintenance is due or warranty is about to expire, that job will automatically receive higher priority over others.
Einstein Recommendation Builder enables organizations to rapidly deploy machine learning models to enhance service, including AI-powered recommendations to ensure mobile workers always have the right parts for the job. Einstein will scan similar past work orders for previous, similar jobs to identify which parts will be needed for the current one
Asset 360 is a new set of asset management capabilities that ServiceMax is building in partnership with Salesforce. With Asset 360, companies will have complete visibility into their install base, service contracts and asset performance (e.g. machinery, medical equipment) to maximize the uptime of complex equipment and reduce operational costs.
Appointment Assistant uses live status updates and GPS to automatically update customers on the technician’s arrival time. This keeps customers informed, and gives them a chance to vacate the premises and/or adequately prepare before the technician arrives – increasing safety for both technician and customer while social distancing is advised.
DQ: How do you see the field service industry evolve in the next few years?
Paul Whitelam: Businesses aren’t competing with products anymore; they’re competing with experiences. Considering this, delivering in-person service can become a competitive differentiator.
In these days of social distancing, modernizing field service is not just a matter of convenience, but also of personal safety. For instance, sending technicians back multiple times to fix the same problem creates more risk for both customers and workers. In addition, failing to notify customers efficiently about the status of jobs and precautions to take wastes a valuable opportunity to enhance safety measures.
According to Gartner, by 2023, more than 60% of all customer service engagements will be delivered via digital and web self-serve channels. More companies are now relying on video technology and screen sharing to address customer issues; as a result of the pandemic.
Moving forward, businesses need to invest in technology and AI to help them take a more proactive approach to field service requirements. Drawing on insights from data science and artificial intelligence tools can help companies predict when a product will need service and what parts a technician needs on hand, based on past jobs; in turn enabling increased customer satisfaction.
DQ: How can this ensure quality in-service by people in times of Covid-19?
Paul Whitelam: The opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves from competitors is massive. Even before COVID-19, marketing, sales and service teams have increasingly understood that they’re competing on customer experience as much as anything else. Meanwhile, the pandemic has made the need to transform even more urgent. Field service must evolve to meet modern-day expectations, and brands that act fast have the chance to become the frontrunners.
When we order food online, the customer has real-time insight into all the stages – Order confirmation – Packaging and delivery. Likewise, in terms of minor home improvement/ repair requests etc, the customer should get a reminder a few minutes before a technician comes, to clear out and sanitize the work area, prepare certain paperwork or wear a mask and maintain physical distance. This level of visibility not only creates a better experience, but also enhances safety in the time of COVID-19.
Many companies across industries that send employees out to complete jobs in the field had to shut down entirely over the last few months. However, time-dependent tasks still required to be completed irrespective of the current situation – Critical machinery still needs to be repaired, medical devices require servicing, air conditioning units need to be fixed, and so on. After getting over the initial shock of COVID-19, frontline workers got back to work, and have been at it ever since.
Post the initial dip in March, Salesforce Field Service saw a more than 50% jump in usage between April and July 2020, and is actually now being used 20% more than at pre-COVID levels as companies and frontline workers scramble to clear the backlog of service requests created earlier this year.
Our customers tell us that it is more crucial now than ever for their field technicians to have the right information and tools to maximize equipment uptime and first-time fix rates. Decades of industry expertise and innovation have gone into building our next-generation field service management product, and organizations across industries are deploying it to keep their equipment working, businesses running, technicians productive, and end customers safe.
Astute leaders are wising up to the fact that field service can become the frontline for how customers perceive their brands. They are no longer viewing field service as a cost center, but as a revenue source that can transform a customer’s experience and craft a relationship that lasts.