AiThority Interview with Julian Armington, Senior Director Product Marketing at Salesforce
Hi Julian, please tell us about your journey in the technology industry. What inspired you to start at Salesforce?
I’ve always been passionate about helping companies of all sizes design productive go-to-market strategies and amazing customer experiences. After working in financial services for several years, I pursued my MBA at the University of Texas at Austin, with a focus on High Technology Marketing. This led me to an MBA internship with Salesforce in 2012 and I’ve been in the technology industry ever since. I’m now a Senior Director of Product Marketing at Salesforce, where I implement marketing strategies and campaigns for some of the company’s most in-demand products, including Service Cloud.
What is Salesforce Service Cloud and how does it add value to the modern customer service industry?
Service Cloud is an all-encompassing customer service management platform for businesses of all sizes and types. Service Cloud provides problem-solving, industry-leading support to strengthen customer engagement.
The customer experience has evolved significantly just this past year. While digital transformation has been a trend for a long time, last year it went from a nice-to-have to an absolute must-have – especially for the customer experience. And in the process, those experiences transformed the role of customer service. For example, when a customer is debating a purchase online and hits the “Chat Now” button, they aren’t connected to sales, marketing, or commerce. They’re instantly connected to customer service. And in that moment, they’re not only supporting. They’re selling. They’re marketing. They’re the front line of every engagement.
The businesses that have thrived during the pandemic are those that embraced digital tools to connect those dots across the customer journey in order to deliver excellent and seamless experiences. And when companies are also able to automate business processes and reimagine their contact centers digitally, the scale and productivity gains are significant because service teams can spend less time focusing on manual processes and more time building relationships and solving complex problems that need a human touch.
In our most recent announcement, we unveiled new AI-powered workflows and contact center innovations in Service Cloud which will enable customer service teams to predict, route, and solve customer needs — sometimes before the customer is even aware a problem exists. The end result is effortless experiences for both customers and service teams.
Which technologies and capabilities should a Service leader look out for while choosing Service Cloud for their operations? How do you make this buying journey simple for your customers?
As customer expectations are higher than ever, service leaders should look for solutions with capabilities that power proactive, effortless experiences for service agents and their customers — especially in the moments that matter. In fact, 90% of customers say how a company acts during a crisis reveals its trustworthiness. AI-powered workflows and automation will give service teams the ability quickly respond to major incidents, automate how cases are routed throughout the organization, and eliminate repetitive tasks that bog agents down.
And as we continue to work in a hybrid and distributed world, it’s also important for agents to be able to bring together their workspace, voice capabilities, workforce engagement, and collaboration tools altogether to connect employees, partners, customers, and apps on one screen. Our complete suite of service tools connect automation, field service, incident management, and the contact center to your CRM, so every agent has a complete view of the customer.
We also use our own products throughout the customer journey, from the bot that greets you on the website, all the way to our service teams being Customer Zero for our new Swarming capabilities.
Service Cloud is a remarkable product—it solves problems for agents, customers and employees. Could you explain a bit how you thought of the challenges before working on the innovations?
Right now is such a pivotal time for c-suite leaders, with so many competing challenges — customer expectations are sky high, employees are balancing working from home and resigning at record numbers, and there are still supply chain challenges that lead to an uptick in service cases. We are laser-focused on the customer and employee experiences and always thinking about ways to make service interactions smoother, faster, and effortless. For example, we know that automation can solve a lot of problems, but there are still going to be times that a customer really wants to talk to a human being, if it’s a financial advisor or an insurance claim after an accident. Knowing the right time and place for automation and understanding customer expectations is what drives our innovations.
In our last State of Service report, it was revealed that 78% of agents say their company views them as brand ambassadors. That means that service agents can no longer be limited to being post-purchase problem solvers, but must be empowered to become strategic partners that drive customer loyalty and revenue. This transformation starts by bringing every channel – even traditional channels, like voice – into the cloud. When every channel is in one place and all customer engagements are powered by AI, agents have the ability to solve cases faster and drive revenue based on intelligent recommendations.
And we don’t simply focus on the end-product – we also spend a massive amount of time thinking through how our customers will implement our products so that we can make that as easy and fast as possible. From a guided setup experience that’s infused with best practices, to out of the box tools to enable companies to configure their solution – not customize with code – we want to make sure every Service Cloud customer is successful from day one.
AI and RPA make up for a formidable pair. Tell us more about how your RPA integrates with Einstein?
The robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities we recently announced for Service Cloud stem from our recent Servicetrace acquisition. This enables service teams to automate repetitive tasks such as look-ups and write-ins across legacy systems that lack APIs. Those manual processes and legacy systems are usually why you’re put on hold when you call a contact center, and RPA can make those processes seamless so that the agent can focus on building a relationship with the person at the other end of the line, not waiting for a legacy system to load.
Tell us more about the Omni-channel Routing for Flow. And what’s the Slack integration here all about?
Omni-Channel Flow is built directly into Salesforce’s workflow platform, which means teams can develop complex rules based on CRM data for routing calls, messages, and chats across the service team and other departments. With Omni-Channel and Einstein Case Classification, Service Cloud can now utilize natural language processing to analyze incoming cases and automate routing to the best queue, agent, or process — including processes that interact with external systems — and auto-respond to customers with relevant articles from Einstein Article Recommendations to drive efficiency and reduce support costs.
By combining Salesforce and Slack, we’re making it much easier for Service teams to collaborate in real-time to quickly resolve customer challenges, bringing customers directly into the channel when necessary. This is so critical during a time when many service teams are working in hybrid or fully-remote environments for the first time ever. Now Slack has become the virtual equivalent of turning to tap a colleague on the shoulder for help. Service agents can get instant access to experts and channels in Slack, resulting in an 11% improvement in customer satisfaction scores.
For example, one of our new, recently-announced features, Swarming, automates the process of identifying and bringing in subject matter experts to help resolve a particularly challenging case or a major incident that’s impacting multiple customers. The service agent can ask for help right within Service Cloud, then is taken through a set of guided Expert Finder workflows to select specific skills needed for the Swarm — product experts, marketing experts, or a language if the problem is in a specific region. Then Omni-Channel routes the request to a dedicated Slack channel where the team can collaborate to resolve the issue. This type of collaboration and efficiency is going to dramatically accelerate customer response times and is only possible by seamlessly integrating Service Cloud and Slack.
What are the top industries that can benefit from adopting Service Cloud:
In our digitally-driven world, any company — across any industry— can benefit from adopting new tools to better connect with customers across a variety of channels, including phone, email, web chat, text and social. Our technology is applicable in so many different ways, but can be tailored to specific industries – for example, the most common incidents that technology companies deal with are outages, but insurance companies can use that same incident management technology to accelerate claims resolution when a natural disaster hits and many customers are impacted simultaneously.
Companies that lead with a digital-first strategy will be better equipped to take customers engagement to the next level. Sonos, purveyor of the ultimate wireless home sound systems, is one great example. Amid the pandemic last year, Sonos lost 90% of its business when many of the third-party retail locations they sold in were closed down. In response, Sonos looked to Salesforce and their new set of service automation tools to transition their business to digital. In addition to building a connected direct-to-consumer e-commerce site, Sonos also prioritized elevating its approach to customer service. As a part of the company’s shift to selling direct-to-consumer, Sonos saw a 24% increase in the volume of customer service inquiries in July 2020, which it was able to easily manage using Service Cloud’s automated chatbots. Other service tools like automated call routing and the AI-powered ‘Next Best Actions’ recommendation engine reduced average customer service call times by 10%. Customer referrals and positive customer experiences continue to drive Sonos’ business.
What is the future of AI-based Service Cloud?
These days, AI and automation tough every aspect of the customer service experience, both for the end-customer as well as the service team. We’re using AI to identify major incidents faster, often before customers even know there is an issue. We’re using natural langue processing in our bots to give customers a conversational service experience that’s often even better than speaking with an actual person. We’re making it easier for companies to make complex business processes simple and automate repetitive and manual tasks, making every engagement more efficient. And we’re delivering AI-powered insights to service teams so that they can continuously improve upon every stage of the customer experience. All of this means faster, trusted, effortless customer service.
But what I’m most excited about when we talk about the power of AI is the opportunity to create a more engaged, empowered workforce. AI and Automation are helping to eliminate the most repetitive tasks and cases, empowering agents to truly focus on the thing that matters most – the customer. By shifting how we view agents, from interchangeable employees with high turnover, to life long learners with growing expertise, we’re able to sustain and retain employees and help them grow their careers with a company.
Thank you, Julian! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
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