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Customer service in a new era

customer service innovation

I was a guest at the end of 2013 on one of Paul Greenberg’s and Brent Leary’s shows, on their streaming network PPN. It’s obvious that there is a lot CRM content, but I am always impressed at how they are able to coax executives of competing vendors into discussing big ideas and being nice to eachother.

It wasn’t always like that. Around 10 years back, I was at a stage where a startup CEO got into a spat with one of the major CRM players. The CEO’s skills seemed to be better suited for the political world, where he eventually moved. But I digress.

In a broader sense, I also mentioned the importance of Paul and Brent’s show to this piece. I think 2024 will be the year of consolidation for things related to AI, because it’s much easier to claim territory than to settle it. I think we are at that point.

In terms of CRM and AI I believe that we should see more than just base hits. I am referring to AI solutions that run from vendor to client to, ideally money in the bank.

It’s difficult to achieve this because money in the account is a lagging indication, and many CRM applications don’t work that way. In the case of customer service, a vendor could take a while to realize the monetary benefits from AI.

Measuring AI success

The best early indicator for AI success would be a decrease in customer attrition and/or an improvement in customer retention, as measured by the number of renewals. The problem is not many vendors want to share their before pictures with the world — and you can’t blame them.

As a test, AI can be applied to customer service. This has some benefits. Customers are not the same as sales prospects. Prospects can ghost you. Customers, on the other hand, want to see things through both from a product perspective and in their relationship.

You will get the benefit of doubt from customers if you show them that you truly care about their needs. Customer service is a great target for a CRM vendor looking to integrate AI.

Right now, Salesforce looks like the vendor implementing a customer-service-first approach. The company is also working hard to integrate AI into the rest of their suite. In my experience, the focus seems to be on service. This perception could be a mirage. Like anyone else, I’m susceptible to this illusion.

Salesforce, Apple Partnership

Salesforce has a unique approach to achieving its vision for AI-assisted services. It is collaborating with other companies and thinking outside of the box in the right circumstances. Apple and Salesforce announced their partnership in December to provide AI service support through messaging. It makes sense.

In the past 20 years, service provision has taken a unique path. Although you can still use the old model of break-fix, we’ve moved on. Apple’s relationship is a good example of how service is more about finding the small gaps between fix and break.

Salesforce’s latest press release noted there were more than two billion Apple devices on the market. Among consumers aged between 18 and 34, messaging is the preferred method of exchange, which includes chat, text and email. This is a large market share; the future of customer service will be determined by how it develops.

Two things standout. First, Apple Messages uses Service Cloud to give customers connectivity with customer support; they can also get personalized shopping recommendations, schedule appointments, make purchases, and track deliveries — just as you’d expect with messaging.

This is a fresh take on service and support, which you could say has come at the right time. Apple is a huge company, with more than half of the U.S. population owning iPhones. This solution provides the scale that Apple needs, while the target demographic also wants the most frictionless support paradigm possible. Apple Messages for Service Cloud is a great solution.

ARKit for Field Service and Sales

Apple Messages for Service Cloud has a very small footprint for a big market. Apple’s ARKit is a macro-micro product.

ARKit allows field technicians to map and create 3D renderings from simple images. This isn’t something that most customers will need, but for those who plan large installations or are in the field of service it can be a great time-saver.

The ability of these apps to integrate elements of customer service into sales is something I’ve been lamenting for a while.

Apple’s ARKit embedded into Salesforce Field Service and Sales Cloud, for example, can help you sharpen your pencil when preparing a proposal.

Strategic Growth of Salesforce

This type of integration has significant advantages. I am not just talking about claiming territories. It’s more than just speeding up processes.

Salesforce’s AI-driven service creates new service niches, and by doing so, it removes itself from direct competition against vendors of service process support.

Throughout its history, Salesforce has had terrific growth — in part due to this tactic of being first by inventing a niche or at least being early in a niche. Setting up a territory is not as exciting as claiming it. But depending on your perspective, it does not have to be boring.