As San Francisco was invaded by well over 100,000 attendees to Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference, it was hard not to be overwhelmed. The sheer size of the crowds walking to and from the various venues throughout the city, plus the number of sessions (2700!), the festival atmosphere with bands, DJs, activities including a climbing wall, and name-brand speakers including Michelle Obama, Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman, Jenna Bush Hager, Barbara Pierce Bush, and more, made for a very different type of conference experience.
The theme of the event was the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In his keynote, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff noted that we’ve moved from previous industrial revolutions powered by Steam, Electricity, and Computing, to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are transforming the customer experience. We are now in the digital age, with analytics at the core, using real-time data to increase productivity and reduce costs. In this latest stage, everything is connected and everything is smart. This latest industrial revolution features things like AI, 3D printing, biotech, robotics, autonomous vehicles, nanotechnology, quantum computing, and IoT.
However, there’s currently a customer divide and 59% of companies lack fourth industrial revolution capabilities. Change agents within organizations, who Salesforce calls Trailblazers, can help their companies digitally transform. Benioff noted that all types of companies are using these technologies to transform in a variety of ways – there are even sensors in tires, which are connected to the network, so that “if a tire blows, everyone will know.”
As far as announcements, the key UCC and contact center announcements relate to Einstein, Lightning, and Quip (Salesforce’s new collaboration platform based on an acquisition). Most of the announcements centered around personalization and customization – myEinstein, myLightning, myTrailhead, mySalesforce – you get the idea. The goal is for every trailblazer to build and personalize capabilities for their environment. For example, companies can add their brand and content to the Trailhead training program with MyTrailhead.
Einstein AI – Bots and More
There were several announcements related to Salesforce Einstein, combining artificial intelligence with its CRM platform. Salesforce Einstein is “AI for CRM,” as shown below.
Salesforce introduced Einstein Bots, and added AI capabilities to its Service Cloud platform for customer service. AI is becoming a key part of Service Cloud, with Einstein used in various ways to help provide better service to customers.
As shown below, Service Cloud Einstein helps agents understand prioritize and solve cases, and includes a range of functionality – Einstein Answers, Einstein Bots, and Einstein Agent. As Gautam Vasudev, Sr. Director, Product Management Service Cloud, explained during a briefing, Einstein has two paths when it comes to Service Cloud – bots and case classification for things like language detection, next best offer, recommendations, etc. Einstein Bots are customer service bots and virtual agents within chat apps and websites to respond to customer-service interactions without using live agents until needed. Einstein Bots can be trained with historical service and CRM data to respond to common customer inquiries and resolve routine issues, and then handoff the interaction to live agents when needed. Einstein Bots are used by companies such as Adidas to power all of its service interactions and free up agents’ time.
I saw several demos of how Salesforce contact center vendor partners are using Salesforce’s Einstein AI capabilities to provide enhanced service functionality. For example, Five9 demonstrated how Einstein bots are used in the contact center as a part of an integrated service or sales solution.
Service Cloud – Lightning Up the Contact Center
Another area of interest for me was the Salesforce Service Cloud, used to “transform service and deliver customer success.” Service Cloud components include self service, field service, customer service, digital engagement, service analytics, Einstein Agent, Einstein Bots. Service Cloud provides what it calls “omnichannel routing,” to match cases to the agent with the best skill set to solve them. However, this refers only to digital interactions like chat, social, and email, not voice. Many contact center vendors integrate with Service Cloud to provide the voice capabilities using APIs or out-of-the-box integrations.
As Gautam Vasudev, Sr. Director, Product Management Service Cloud, told me, Salesforce offers what can be considered “routing lite,” enabling customers to get up and running quickly with Service Cloud Routing, leveraging its chat, email, and social channels. Salesforce currently supports Face Messenger, and in the future, will support real-time channels such as Apple Business Chat and Google. For more advanced routing needs, and for companies that have already invested in ACD platforms,
Salesforce has various strategic partners in its ecosystem and continues to add partners. While Salesforce doesn’t have a “go to” contact center partner that it recommends, I expect to see Salesforce work more closely with a few key partners such as Five9, TalkDesk, and NewVoiceMedia in the near future. These vendors work closely with Salesforce and have very tight integrations. During a meeting at Dreamforce, TalkDesk explained to me that with their Salesforce integration, “Everything connects intuitively. When a call comes in, it can be routed to the case or lead owner, and TalkDesk brings up the Salesforce customer record based on a data dip in background. When the agent takes the call, they can see customer data, as well as information on wait time, customer journey, etc.”
I also had a chance to get demos of contact center vendors’ integration with Salesforce Service Cloud and Sales Cloud, as well as the new Lightning user interface or console. Salesforce Lightning was a big focus at the event. According to Salesforce, “The new Lightning Service Console improves agent productivity with new UI shortcuts and tools, making agents and customers happier.” Several companies were showing off their integrating with Salesforce Lightning, including Five9, NICE-inContact, Avaya, and TalkDesk.
Quip – Enabling Collaboration
One of the biggest surprises for me at Dreamforce was Quip, Salesforce’s collaboration product. Quip was acquired by Salesforce in August 2016 and adds some interesting collaboration capabilities that are very intriguing. Quip was described as “Documents meet chat,” with the goal of transforming the way teams work together by moving away from email and meetings. Quip allows for real-time co-authoring, while providing mobile and social capabilities.
Bret Taylor, CEO of Quip, presented one of the best and funniest keynotes at Dreamforce. Sharing the stage with Zach Woods and Martin Starr of HBO’s Silicon Valley (who are absolutely hysterical), Taylor demonstrated how the Quip collaboration platform can be used to help companies create documents, calendars, and more, which can be shared in real time to help teams better collaborate. Taylor announced Live Apps, which “brings collaboration to all of your apps” and enable custom workflows. Users can bring a live graph into Quip and comment on it, or put a calendar directly into a marketing plan that anyone on the team can comment on.
During the Quip keynote, Kevin Gibbs, Co-Founder and CTO of Quip noted that they turned Quip from a product for collaboration to a platform for collaboration, with over 10 Live Apps shipping with Quip, while making it easier to “Pull the outside world into Quip, including Service Cloud, Sales Cloud, Jira, and more,” enabling users to view and edit directly inside Quip documents without having to switch to another tab or app. Over 20 partners have built Live Apps on the Quip platform, including Smart Sheet, GSuite, Facebook, Elements, invision, DocuSign, Lucidchart, Eventbrite, and more.
While I don’t see Quip as a Slack, Cisco Spark, or Microsoft Teams killer, it provides some useful team collaboration capabilities. Quip is more focused on collaborating on documents and spreadsheets created in Quip, and is better for document change management and tracking, while Slack, Spark, and Teams are more focused on the actual collaboration capabilities. Currently, collaboration on Quip is done through text, and there are no voice or video capabilities. Based on Salesforce’s Google relationship, I expect to see Google Hangouts integration added to enable more communication capabilities. Also, Quip uses its own calendar, and doesn’t currently integrate with Outlook, which may be a challenge for some users. One Quip user noted that they still use Slack for some collaboration functionality that Quip doesn’t provide.
All in all, Dreamforce was a great event, with lots of activity and insights. I’d like to give a special shout out to Marc Benioff and Salesforce for their incredible generosity and contributions to the North Bay fire relief. There were fundraising activities throughout the event, including concerts that raised millions of dollars to help aid victims of the California wildfires. Salesforce is a company that stresses its core values, noting that it’s in the business of making the world a better place. Salesforce and Benioff are to be commended for their commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion, while helping to protect our planet for future generations.
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