This content is part of the Essential Guide: Inside the Salesforce platform: The Salesforce clouds

Improving customer service with knowledge management systems

Contact centers gain a competitive edge through new knowledge management systems that put accurate, up-to-the minute customer data at their fingertips.

Customer service has become a battleground on which many companies fight for a competitive edge today.

Customers expect to be served efficiently through their transactions. But for customer service agents to competently troubleshoot issues, they need up-to-date data right in front of them -- from customer account information to product documentation. That's why comprehensive, easy-to-search knowledge management systems and contact center software have been so critical to improving customer service, though good systems are few and far between.

To discuss the role of the Salesforce Service Cloud in creating solid customer experience and agent productivity, SearchSalesforce spoke with Larry Robinson, senior vice president of product management for the Service Cloud at Salesforce.

SearchSalesforce: What are some key enhancements to Service Cloud?

Larry Robinson: One has been to lift the Service Cloud platform into real-time interaction. Now, the system knows when you're logged in as a contact center agent, it knows your presence, it can route the best work to you with our Omni-Channel Routing capability.

Larry Robinson, senior vice president of product management for the Salesforce Service CloudLarry Robinson

So, as part of improving customer service, the Service Cloud can gauge whether an agent is available and whether he has the expertise to deal with the issue?

Robinson: Yes, and has the capacity to deal with an issue. Some agents can deal with five emails at a time; some fewer. It can also manage the workload for blended channels -- three chats, five emails -- and multitask through these channels.

Closely coupled to that is we've been doing improvements in the Agent Console, the universal agent desktop. Companies can embed back-office systems' data into our UI and create a pane of glass for the agent. Every interaction an agent picks up, they have the back-office information brought into that context.

When you call your cable company, not only can they see your service request, but also all the services you have with them, what was the previous interaction [and] are you behind on your payments? This information can make the agent more effective in cross-selling, up-selling or doing payment collection.

Can you integrate non-Salesforce data into the Service Cloud?

There's no free lunch. [To integrate back-office systems into Service Cloud], companies have to do some work, some personalization of the front end.
Larry Robinsonsenior vice president of product management for Salesforce Service Cloud

Robinson: You can integrate non-Salesforce data into that UI. One company has 100 systems its agents touch. It wants to integrate the data from those 100 systems -- not all at the same time, but the right system for the right interaction. If someone calls to follow up on a claim, they want the claim information available. The system can automatically present the right back-office data.

There's no free lunch. The customer has to think about it and say, 'What are my interaction types, and what systems will I bring in?' They can configure Salesforce to do that personalization of the experience for the agent. They have to do some work, some personalization of the front end. Some are getting 40% improvement, they tell us.

How are knowledge bases improving customer service?

Robinson: Obviously, having knowledgeable agents, and using a knowledge base to do so, is a cornerstone of successful customer service. That's why we acquired a mature knowledge base and re-implemented on our platform to make it tightly integrated. The knowledge base is right there alongside you, in a sidebar, eavesdropping on your typing. And as you fill in details, it's filtering based on the context of the conversation or interactions you're documenting. It's suggesting knowledge base articles. It's smart search capability. If you're having trouble following up on a healthcare claim, it will bring up articles on that, so [an] agent can call up all those articles and see them. Take the context and then suggest the right knowledge for you, and learn which ones you use and bring those higher up for future agents.

In part two of our interview with Larry Robinson, he offers insights on omnichannel customer experience and the Salesforce Service Cloud.

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