Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Salesforce updates Service Cloud to meet post-pandemic consumer demands

As economic activity rebounds, Salesforce contends, consumers will need more help, both from customer service agents and field service agents.

Salesforce on Wednesday is updating the Service Cloud with a series of capabilities that should help organizations respond to post-pandemic customer demands. 

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First, Salesforce is bringing new telephony capabilities to Service Cloud Voice, allowing customer service representatives to assist consumers on a wider range of channels. Organizations can also leverage Salesforce's new pre-built Einstein Bots to assist customers digitally. Next, the new Service Cloud Workforce Engagement tool enables more flexible work arrangements for customer service teams. Additionally, the newly-available Visual Remote Assistant will facilitate "field service" -- like fixing elevators or troubleshooting cable boxes -- conducted remotely.

As vaccination rates increase and consumers grow more comfortable resuming parts of their lives put on hold by the pandemic -- making airline reservations or going to events at large arenas, for instance -- they'll need more help, both from customer service agents and field service agents. 

"I know our customers, especially in travel, transportation, hospitality, retail and restaurants -- and all the sectors that service those, like janitorial, food service, elevator repair -- it's all coming back online," Clara Shih, CEO of Service Cloud, told ZDNet. "People are hungry to go back to those things... All of these pieces that are service touchpoints, all of those have to come back online in a seamless way."

In a survey of US consumers published this week, Salesforce found that people are indeed ready to resume normal economic activity. Two-thirds anticipate that they'll have eaten in a restaurant in three months from now. Nearly half expect that they'll have stayed in a hotel or short-term rental by mid-summer.

At the same time, most (82 percent) want the same level of customer service they became accustomed to during the pandemic. More than half of customer service professionals said their organizations saw higher case volumes during the pandemic.

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To make those customer service calls easier, Service Cloud Voice now lets customers connect existing phone systems into the platform with Service Cloud Voice for Partner Telephony. The platform already brings together phone, digital channels, and CRM data. 

Salesforce also expects that the dramatically increased use of chatbots is here to stay. In the past year, Salesforce Einstein Bot conversations grew 706 percent. The AI-powered chatbots help quickly resolve common issues like processing a return or checking a flight status. Salesforce's new pre-built Einstein Bots make them easier to deploy. 

Meanwhile, the Service Cloud Workforce Engagement tool gives managers a way to plan for fluctuating levels of in-store traffic, as well as for contact center agents that want to work remotely. The tools also provide agents with real-time coaching and on-demand training. 

Service Cloud Workforce Engagement and Service Cloud Voice for Partner Telephony are expected to be generally available in June. Pre-built Einstein Bots are currently in beta and are expected to be generally available in October.

For organizations that have more on-the-ground maintenance needs -- but still have concerns about employee health and safety -- Service Cloud's Visual Remote Assistant can help limit in-person interactions. It lets mobile technicians get a remote view of what the customer sees, blurring the lines between field service agents and digital customer service representatives. Visual Remote Assistant is generally available now.