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Salesforce Service Cloud to add features, partners

Salesforce will announce partnerships this fall to connect new telephony providers to Service Cloud as contact centers reconfigure their teams for post-COVID-19 work.

Users of Salesforce Service Cloud for contact center and field service are getting some long-promised features and new telephony connections coming to the platform.

Service Cloud Voice for Partner Telephony is a new set of connectors that will integrate leading telephony providers to Salesforce AI services. After its expected June go-live, there are about two dozen telephony providers who plan to announce integrations in the fall, according to Dana Foster Chery, vice president of product marketing at Salesforce. While Chery didn't divulge which partners will announce new telephony connections, she said many will be names familiar to contact center technology buyers.

Service Cloud Voice is a bundle of services that turns phone conversations into live transcripts, over which AI can be run to make suggestions for live agents or bots to solve customer service issues. While Salesforce already has an integration with Amazon Connect call center as a service and numerous others such as 8x8 and Twilio, these new integrations will make it easier to connect many telephony vendors to Einstein AI services and help make service data more visible across the Salesforce clouds.

"Salesforce needs to show some leadership in what is becoming the biggest operational question companies are asking about customer service -- and that is, what is the line between customer service and sales?" said Nicole France, an analyst at Constellation Research. "For a lot of companies, that line is getting very blurry, and if Salesforce can help its customers to see customer service as far more than a cost center ... they will remain in the [technology buying] conversation."

Salesforce released Visual Remote Assistant, a tool to connect remote technicians with customers or fellow techs out in the field via a video connection. Some fields such as telecommunications and manufacturing services have a workforce populated with experienced agents who might be nearing retirement and don't necessarily want to reenter the field even after the COVID-19 risks subside. Tools such as Virtual Remote Assistant can keep them on the job a little while longer, imparting their knowledge to younger agents and customers from afar.

Salesforce Service Cloud Visual Remote Assistant animation
Salesforce Service Cloud Visual Remote Assistant gives technicians in the field a video connection to remote experts -- or connects customers and remote assistants -- to solve problems on site.

"It helps bridge the generational divide, and helps facilitate that transfer of knowledge," Chery said.

Pre-Built Einstein Bots, in beta now and expected to be available in October, take common tasks for which Salesforce Service Cloud users have built bots and add AI to complete the tasks. Examples of the bots include capturing service interaction data to create CRM sales leads and chatbot creation.

Pandemic changes call centers

As the pandemic closed down offices in 2020, many contact centers were faced with technical challenges serving suddenly remote workforces. While some contact centers might have supported remote agents, traditionally the contact center involved in-person work where many agents shared common spaces, with managers walking aisles and coaching agents. Customers in some sectors were left anxious and frustrated during the transition.

Chery said that as customer service leaders put those problems behind them and reimagine the technology that supports their teams, Salesforce users will likely settle on some form of hybrid remote and in-person model.

France said this puts Salesforce in an interesting position in regards to acquisitions: The partner agreements with Amazon and telephony vendors to come don't preclude Salesforce from acquiring a telephony provider for itself and making it native to the platform. But it signals they probably aren't planning to -- at least in the near term. That could change once contact center users show how they will rebuild their application stacks with cloud services post-pandemic.

"I wonder if it's a waiting game to see how the voice telephony market is going to shake out," France said, as customer service leaders take on more responsibility for their cloud software outside the confines of specialized contact center facilities traditionally hardwired by corporate IT.

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