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Salesforce Communicating Contact Center Message

As I've written previously, Salesforce has introduced three solutions for providing contact center managers who use its Service Cloud the ability to embed communications as a feature. I covered the path forward for Salesforce Live Agent users in the first article in this series, "Communications-as-a-Feature: How Salesforce Will Replace Your ACD." Here I'll take a look at the Omni-Channel solution for skills-based and content routing and SOS integration for video chat and screen sharing.

While most readers will focus on integration with their legacy contact center telephony switches, Salesforce's Omni-Channel and SOS can provide many features currently available on legacy contact center switches without the need to engage integration. In other words, you can implement the Salesforce engagement solutions I describe in this article in a stand-alone queue (provided Salesforce license entitlement and an Internet connection).

Further, Salesforce real-time engagement solutions are currently only available to customers using mobile apps. This opportunity is particularly important given the simplicity of implementation within the Salesforce Console and the ability to support WebRTC from mobile devices. This last point becomes compelling when you consider that 60% to 80% of calls arriving in contact centers originate from mobile devices.

Before I get started on the technical details, a further word about legacy systems. In late September, at Cisco's Contact Center Summit, John Hernandez, COO for Service Cloud at Salesforce, and Chris Botting, GM of Cisco's Customer Care Business Unit, provided some details about the alliance between their two companies. I missed the conference, but regular No Jitter contributor Sheila McGee-Smith was there and provided some insight in her post, "Cisco, Salesforce Kick It Up in the Contact Center." As she noted, Hernandez painted a scenario in which one day "Cisco's Jasper Internet of Things (IoT) platform could collect IoT data, while the Salesforce IoT Cloud would organize and combine that data with customer records in Service Cloud and use Salesforce Einstein artificial intelligence technology to determine an agent's next best action."

In this example, a company would use real-time processing of customer journey data from website visits, previous transactions, social, IoT, and mobile apps to predict the customer's needs in advance of a one-on-one engagement. Salesforce has optimized Live Agent, Omni-Channel, and SOS to do this without the need for a legacy switch.

Queueing Up More Reporting
Many of my clients are at the limit of scalability on their contact center platforms, a situation typically due to the overuse of routing algorithms. Many find themselves needing to support multiple customer engagement solutions while the industry sorts out a path forward as mobile and browser-based, peer-to-peer solutions such as Skype and WhatsApp erode the traditional communications revenue base.

Salesforce Omni-Channel adds functionality to the Live Agent solution I discussed in my last article by introducing additional media and content-processing capabilities into its queuing and performance reporting infrastructure. Omni-Channel enables support for fax, email, images (for postal mail), and potentially social interactions as part of the queuing infrastructure. Omni-Channel also supports skills-based routing, but Salesforce's implementation it is not as mature as traditional telephony-oriented skills-based routing.

Performance reporting is comparable to, but not as granular as, what you would see in any contact center environment. What I mean by this is that the state of the art for traditional contact center reporting includes data warehouse integration and real-time, big-data analytics. Omni-Channel can feed these platforms; however, Salesforce offers no productized solutions that compare to offerings from traditional providers that wed analytics to the data and information stored within their applications (this is real context). It will take some time for the raw interaction data to be transformed into operational information.

WFM Integration
Interval-based occupancy reports are available for import into any of the top-tier workforce management (WFM) solutions. The availability of this solution supports the kind of scheduling and real-time management techniques already in use in most large contact centers.

Additionally, WFM integration is something that most back-office operations lack. These are operations that process large volumes of Web-based transactions, e-mail, fax, or image-based content. Salesforce has tuned Omni-Channel to support queuing and measurements of performance in these types of environments.

Typically, contact centers have back-office operations that can be multiple times larger than the customer-facing operations. In my experience, I have found that the use of queuing, skills-based routing, performance reporting, and WFM tools in the back office of environments with more than 100 seats can improve efficiency by 50% to 200%. The ability to integrate queuing, WFM, and skills-based routing into back-office operations is a huge financial opportunity for these enterprises.

SOS for Mobile Communications
The skills-based routing and performance reporting tools within Omni-Channel also support SOS sessions. A word of caution, at this time, SOS only supports mobile audio, video, and screen sharing. So if your enterprise has or is delivering a mobile app and looking to add communications to it, then SOS could be a relevant solution. SOS does not support PSTN transport, and is not yet available for Web browsers. The latter will follow late next year when Salesforce said it plans to add browser support (mostly likely Chrome and Firefox to start, with IE, Edge, and Safari to come later).

SOS uses WebRTC to support mobile access to video and audio communications as well as screen sharing and file transfer capabilities. This solution disintermediates legacy telecom carriers and enriches the ability to access metadata related to a communications session. It will be interesting to see how the use of these solutions impact monthly telco charges. Interestingly, Salesforce has built SOS on the TokBox cloud communications platform owned by one of the world's largest mobile carriers, Telefonica.

SOS is a solution set of native Android and iOS components designed for integration into Android or iOS mobile apps. Once embedded, these tools enable communications between mobile app users and an enterprise. My clients have tapped SOS for a variety of use cases, including the bonding of significant amounts of metadata, including device and application error codes, authentication data, location data, order processing data, and much more, to a session. Being able to provide contact center agents with such a tremendous amount of contextual information can lead to lower efforts for both customers and agents. This metadata is also usable for routing.

Salesforce provides a well-defined and documented API that makes it easy to produce screen pops within the Salesforce Console. Salesforce seems to have figured out how to deliver on mobile. Late next year this solution will become more formattable when browser-based communications become available.

Omni-Channel and SOS offer numerous opportunities to create efficiencies and reduce costs in enterprises with large numbers of customers. These are early days for these solutions and the future can be difficult to predict. One thing is for certain, Salesforce is renting space between the ears of every executive in the top tier of contact center technology providers. This is making omnichannel solutions from these traditional providers better, and this is good for all of us.