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The head of Salesforce’s largest business explains how the cloud giant plans to help customer service adapt to a post-pandemic world (CRM)

The head of Salesforce’s largest business explains how the cloud giant plans to help customer service adapt to a post-pandemic world (CRM)

Clara Shih Hearsay Social CEO founder

Summary List Placement

Customer service interactions were already moving online and as the pandemic has forced an even more dramatic shift, Salesforce wants to help businesses adapt to this permanently changed landscape.

Over the past year it has redesigned its customer service tool — dubbed its Service Cloud — which helps organizations allow customer service agents to work remotely, use artificial intelligence to speed up calls, and start in-person interactions online.

As of last year, Service Cloud became Salesforce’s biggest business unit — larger even than Sales Cloud, the first product Salesforce built. In the company’s fourth quarter, it brought in $1.4 billion of its total $5.4 billion in revenue, and has consistently grown about 20% on a yearly basis over the last three quarters.

When the pandemic hit last year, companies were desperate to retain their existing customers and they needed a way to offer customer service digitally once in-person interactions became restricted, Salesforce’s CEO of Service Cloud, Clara Shih, told Insider.

As things begin to reopen, there’s an even greater pressure on customer service agents and teams to ensure a smooth experience, she added, predicting that a lot of the “shifts to digital” will stick around to facilitate or improve in-person experiences.

“We’ve shifted from multiple, siloed channels of which digital was one, to now, when we say ‘all digital’ it’s because even for in-person experiences — like going to the store or going to a restaurant — even more so than before, we’re booking ahead,” Shih said.

Businesses will have to infuse digital experiences and processes for in-person experiences, too.

“I just don’t think that the consumers will want to give up that convenience,” Shih said. “While there’s this great yearning to reconnect in person, digital will be part of that in-person experience.”

Many companies that sent contact center agents to work from home during the pandemic will allow those jobs to stay remote even as they reopen offices, Shih said.

“There’s not going to be rows and rows of agents with headsets like before,” she said. “There’s this hybrid model now, that’s, by the way, really liberating for people who have young children or care for the elderly.”

However, that means companies have to rethink how to train agents that might never step foot in a call center. To that end, Salesforce is adding a new Service Cloud feature that allows users to connect any phone service they use, including personal phones, to Service Cloud to record customer service calls. Previously, agents could only record calls if they were using Salesforce’s own phone service in Service Cloud, which is powered by AWS’s Amazon Connect.

By recording the calls, agents can use Service Cloud’s artificial intelligence-powered analysis to bring up relevant details or instructions in real-time. Supervisors can also gather data from all the calls their agents conduct to figure out if there’s a common customer issue arising.

Supervisors will also be able to see data that shows areas where agents may need training, which is also becoming an important aspect of customer service agents jobs, Shih said. Salesforce is launching a new tool called Workforce Engagement that will help contact centers predict demand for customer service, staff accordingly, and coordinate agent coaching and training using Salesforce’s online learning platform, My Trailhead. Salesforce announced the product in December and has been in beta-testing with a few customers since; It will be generally available in a few weeks.

This tool grew, at least partially, from a situation Salesforce noticed customers went through last year: The need to train employees on new skill sets quickly.

For example, Salesforce’s home insurance customers experienced a drop in claims at the beginning of the pandemic, but more questions about home improvements. So, those companies reassigned their claims agents to temporarily act in support roles to accommodate the shifting demand. These companies could have used Salesforce’s new workforce engagement tool to help those workers make the switch.

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