Zeus Kerravala
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his...
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Zeus Kerravala | April 29, 2014 | Launches SOS Service for Mobile Applications Launches SOS Service for Mobile Applications Salesforce is launching SOS Service to enable businesses to provide customer support similar to Amazon's Mayday button.

Salesforce is launching SOS Service to enable businesses to provide customer support similar to Amazon's Mayday button.

Remember the old Abba song called "SOS"? It starts off something like "Where are those happy days, they seem so hard to find, I tried to reach for you but you have closed your mind." What Abba was referring to is that the happy days of call centers are long gone because customer service is getting harder and harder to do in an increasingly mobilized, consumerized world. Quite brilliant of Abba to foreshadow this, given that the song was popular in the 70s (although it had a bit of rebirth because of one of my favorite Broadway shows--Mamma Mia.)

That fact is, though, that customer service in the mobile world is hard to do. Users are on the go, operating systems are different and people demand answers to things faster than ever before. With the world evolving quickly, customer service needs to also change, and change quickly.

Last year Amazon rolled out its Mayday button on its Kindle Fire tablet, hoping to revolutionize customer service targeted towards the consumer. I said this at the time, and I'll say it again: My opinion was that Mayday was a watershed type of customer service tool and makes Apple's "Genius Bar" look like something from the Stone Age.

Last week, followed Amazon's lead and unveiled its Salesforce1 SOS service. SOS is a mobile support service that is similar to the Mayday Button on the Kindle Fire. However, the difference is that the SOS service is a widget that enables any business to have its own "Mayday Button."


Service SOS enables businesses to utilize live video support for real-time customer assistance. Now customers will be able to summon a service agent through live audio and one-way video for real-time, personalized assistance in the mobile application. In the press release, Salesforce cited an example of a mobile banking customer who can inquire about a charge and instantly connect with a service agent to dispute the transaction.

This example can be extended to insurance, healthcare and almost any vertical that requires a more personal touch for customer service through face-to-face interaction. I'm sure the person who manages Eric Krapf's untold millions would be a good target for Service SOS.

The service also enables personalized one-on-one assistance with on-screen guided support. This allows companies to deliver agent-guided assistance to their customers within the mobile application on any device for a personalized service experience. Customers will have the capability of sharing the mobile screen so agents can see what the customer sees.

In the example above, if Eric has a question about where to put his next million, he can share his desktop and "show" the agent the various funds he wants more information on. Another example might be in retail, where a shopper can inquire about a certain item and whether it's available in a certain size or color. The agent can then interact with the application or draw on the screen to guide the customer.

Salesforce stated that the SOS product will go into limited beta in June, and it was looking for five customers to work with before rolling it out more broadly. While I love the concept, I do think businesses should learn to crawl before they run here, and consider the operational impact of doing this.

Amazon has set a pretty high bar with a 10-second response time for Mayday. Are businesses prepared to try and meet the 10-second benchmark? If not, what is an appropriate response time? If a competitor offers a faster response time, do you have to meet that? Is there a level that's simply not achievable?

Another consideration is staffing. Since video-based interactions require one-on-one attention, do additional agents need to be added? If so, what kind of requirements exist for the agents in terms of dress code, lighting, background, etc., to pass along the image the company wants to portray?

Companies should also think about which customers to roll this out to. While Amazon has the scale to offer Mayday to all its Kindle Fire customers, perhaps a bank should offer it to only the top 10% of its customer base initially. Or perhaps utilize it only for certain kinds of interactions instead of all requests from all customers at all times.

Make no mistake, the shift to personalized, video-based customer service is coming and coming fast. Amazon got us kicked off and Salesforce gave the industry a business solution. IT leaders should start considering the points I brought up above so they can be ready when the competitive pressure comes.

To read more about the latest developments from Salesforce, see Sheila McGee-Smith’s article "The Blurring Line between CRM and Contact Center Software."

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