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Dreamforce 2019: CRM/CCaaS Line to Disappear?

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Contact center voice
Image: Vasyl - stock.adobe.com
As I prepared to write this post, I was surprised to see that it was more than five years ago that I wrote “The Blurring Line Between CRM and Contact Center Software.” Since then, the market has seen the CRM desktop — be it packaged from a vendor like Salesforce, Zendesk, or Microsoft or a custom solution — become the de facto for millions of agents. At its industry analyst meeting this past March, Five9 CEO Rowan Trollope acknowledged as much, memorialized in a tweet I made at the time.
 
 
Today at Dreamforce 2019 in San Francisco, Salesforce announced Service Cloud Voice, in its words, “unifying voice calls, digital channels and CRM data in real-time, for the first time.”
 
Service Cloud Voice is integrated directly, natively, into the Salesforce platform, working hand in hand with Salesforce Einstein (artificial intelligence), as I learned in a one-on-one conversation with Gautam Vasudev, senior director of product management at Salesforce. Service Cloud Voice, he explained, will allow agents to answer calls directly from the Salesforce console. Voice could be used to power different parts of the desktop; for example, voice could provide information to create next best actions or to reply with recommendations or suggested articles.
 
The graphic below shows a critical element of Service Cloud Voice — pre-integration of Amazon Connect, from Amazon Web Services (AWS), into Service Cloud. The diagram also shows that Service Cloud Voice will to continue to work with Salesforce CTI partners, including contact center-as-a-cloud (CCaaS) leaders like Five9, Genesys, NICE inContact, and Talkdesk as well as companies such as Avaya and Cisco that offer premises solutions. That means that the voice stream managed by CTI partner contact center solutions could be similarly used to drive the agent console.
 
 
Salesforce said Service Cloud Voice will be in pilot testing by the spring, with general availability coming next summer — and that may be none too soon. From conversations I have had with the Salesforce and the Amazon Connect teams in the lead up to today’s announcement, it seems customers are increasingly wondering why they need to engage with two vendors to get the software they need for their contact centers. Put another way, the all-in-one software suite direction we have seen customers often choose as customer experience applications move to the cloud may be expanding beyond contact center and workforce optimization to include customer relationship management (CRM) applications.
 
The analogy that comes to mind for me is Zendesk. It offers Zendesk Talk as well as integrations to other companies via CTI. But that is where the analogy breaks down — Zendesk Talk is based on Twilio and is a simple voice contact center solution, suited only to either small contact centers or those that have minimal voice interactions. For sophisticated contact centers, the choice has remained using a contact center vendor and CTI connection to Zendesk.
 
Amazon Connect, on the other hand, has had some notable large deployments since its announcement at Enterprise Connect 2017. Companies like Intuit, Capital One, and Mutual of Omaha have spoken at AWS events about using Amazon Connect to replace legacy premises contact centers supporting thousands of agents. Also, Amazon Connect offers sophisticated routing capabilities, allowing for the easy integration of Amazon Polly, for text-to-speech, and Amazon Lex, for conversational speech-to-text, functionality.
 
While the graphic shows customers having choice, another slide in the briefing deck from Salesforce had these two bullets describing the advantages of Service Cloud Voice:
  • Go beyond the existing CTI integration and bring telephony into the Salesforce experience, like it is for digital channels.
  • Unify channel operations and reporting, providing a single source for routing, monitoring and reporting across all channels.
There is still much to learn about how much emphasis Salesforce will put on this joint offering versus solutions from its CTI partners or, in AWS’s case, its non-Salesforce approach. Look for a follow-up article from me later this week on AWS’s thoughts on this important new partnership.

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