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Salesforce has launched IoT Explorer Edition, a tool for embedding IoT data in sales, service and marketing workflows.
It’s been almost four years since Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff whipped out a toothbrush in his keynote speech at the company’s Dreamforce 2013 conference, to illustrate a point about the future of smart objects, and two years since he launched IoT Cloud at Dreamforce 2015.
This week, however, some weeks ahead of Dreamforce 2017, Salesforce has announced a new initiative, IoT Explorer Edition, which company executives say is designed to help customers not just make sense of IoT data but also put it to work.
Moreover, it uses a “low code” way of generating IoT business workflows. In other words, non-technical employees should be able to connect to IoT-enabled sensors, devices and machines and incorporate the information that these ‘things’ convey into everyday tasks.
For example, IoT data from a delivery truck from an industrial laundry company might enable central controllers to identify its location, figure out how full it is, and ask the driver to make one more pick-up of bed linen from a local hotel. Or a local car dealership might be able to coordinate a marketing campaign for discounted servicing once a car that it sold reached a particular mileage.
Because this is Salesforce, there’s naturally a sales, service and marketing angle to all this. The business of keeping customers happy and the products they buy working for them is important to companies of all sizes and in many industries, so the marriage of IoT and customer relationship management (CRM) makes sense.
More importantly, Salesforce has real-life customers already using the technology and these are big-name, heavy-hitting industrial companies. Emerson is one; the $ 20.2 billion maker of heating and air conditioning systems is using IoT Explorer to deliver proactive service based on real-time diagnostics. In other words, if you’re connected air con system is on the blink, it’s possible that Emerson will know about it and may have already been in touch to organize a visit from an engineer.
Another IoT Explorer user is Schneider Electric, the €24 billion ($ 28.4 million) energy management and automation giant, which is now driving targeted sales campaigns that anticipate a customer’s next purchase based on the performance capacity of its existing electrical equipment.
Other companies involved in IoT Explorer pilots are Lippert Components, a company that makes components for RVs (recreational vehicles) and Rehrig Pacific, a maker of plastic pallets and containers.
Salesforce IoT Explorer Edition will be generally available from 17 October as an add-on to Salesforce’s various cloud products.
In a contributed article for Internet of Business, Gavin Mee, senior vice president and head of UK at Salesforce, explains why the voice of the connected customer is something that manufacturers of consumer goods can no longer afford to ignore.
There was a time when every sale was pretty much a single transaction. A product was sold to a customer and that might be followed by occasional servicing and maintenance tasks, where necessary. A customer would purchase a refrigerator from Currys or John Lewis, for example, and, if it needed maintenance, track down the manual to find the manufacturer’s phone number and request a repair. There was little in the way of a significant, ongoing relationship between manufacturer and end-user, and no perceived need for one.
Today, a connected customer buy your refrigerator directly from the manufacturer, and, before they are even aware there is an issue with it, they might receive an email that outlines the problem, and proactively gives them suggested dates and times for a field service engineer to come and fix it.
This means that today, manufacturers own that ‘end-user’ relationship – and that means manufacturers need to up their game in terms of customer relationship management.
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘the customer is king.’ Customer expectations have evolved. The use of mobile and social technologies has led to a change in the way customers interact with brands across the board. They are becoming trickier to attract, influence and retain. And that means manufacturers have to step up to the mark to ensure their products are not left on the shelf – literally – as the last unsold goods in the shop.
This new face of manufacturing is not only about creating compelling products, but also the ‘smart-enabling’, via sensors and software, that can deliver value-added services to connected customers. Earlier this year, LG announced an option to connect Amazon Alexa to its fridges. This connection allows users to add items to a shopping list through voice commands. This type of innovation develops new outside-in, customer-centric business models and processes.
Today’s customers are also looking for personalized experiences. Bespoke manufacturing has been around for a while: Siemens is working with Adidas to use flexible manufacturing technologies like robotics and 3D printing to create bespoke and localized sportswear. But personalization goes much further. While many are still playing catch-up, leading retailers are responding to these evolving expectations.Jaguar Land Rover, for example, has put personalization at the heart of its sales at its Westfield (London) store.
Customers can use the store’s ‘create’ space, which includes colour swatches, examples of interior trim and samples of the interior choices available, to design a car that reflects their personality. This is a great example of a brand recognizing that the purchasing journey is no longer linear, but moves across channels including web, social and mobile.
Another way we’re seeing brands create tailored experiences for customers is Dyson’s dedicated retail spaces. A brand famed for innovation, Dyson has designed bricks-and-mortar stores where shoppers can test and experience the company’s technology and products. Consumers now expect a continuous journey and shops are maximizing these ‘online-offline’ moments at every touchpoint.
In other words, manufacturers must start understanding the connected customer a lot better. Understanding customer motivations and values can transform every aspect of sales and marketing. It helps to inform product development and spark manufacturing innovation – the fundamental success drivers for direct-to-customer services.
For example, food and drinks manufacturers have recognized that many customers prefer low-sugar alternatives. As a result, they are innovating to create new products, and marketing these products to speak directly to customers’ health concerns.
It can be difficult to get closer to customers when you sell through channel partners and retailers and have no direct customer relationships. Even manufacturers that sell directly often hold customer data in isolation from the rest of the business. IT systems frequently are adopted in a fragmented fashion, and that lack of a joined-up approach results in data spread across different databases, production and warehousing systems – all disconnected to the back-office software programmes in use.
Legacy technology and paper-based systems also create a disconnect between field service agents and head office. Salesforce research recently found that more than 70 percent of executives say field service agents need to make a return visit to the customer site ‘at least sometimes.’ By failing to make reps mobile-enabled, they are unable to look up customer data, service histories or complaint issues when they need it – in real time.
Customer service is rapidly changing because customers are changing. And manufacturers now have an unprecedented opportunity to better understand their end customers and capture them as loyal, lifelong buyers, in the same way that retailers once did. To do that, it’s time for the industry to accept that a successful and connected customer experience continues well beyond product boxing and shipping.
The secret for these manufacturers is to effectively redefine the goal of manufacturing in terms of customer success, not just product sales. It’s a trend that Forbes magazine cited as a top ten customer service focus 2017: improving the customer experience is no longer just a retail challenge. By leveraging all the available data – from customer data to connected devices – manufacturers can deliver the smarter services that the connected customer demands.
On the last day of WWDC, Apple detailed Business Chat, its new enterprise customer support platform for iOS 11, leveraging iMessage Apps introduced in iOS 10 as well as integration with Maps, Safari and Spotlight search, in partnership with existing Customer Service Platforms (CSP) from Genesys, LivePerson, Nuance and Salesforce. AppleInsider – Frontpage News
Cloud computing giant Salesforce.com is currently on its World Tour, which will see it meet with thousands of customers and partners. Stopping off at ExCel in London yesterday, the company laid out its vision for the future of enterprise software.
Speaking to an audience of roughly 10,000, on a stage decorated to resemble a campfire at a US National Park, Salesforce.com chief marketing officer Simon Mulcahy announced that the day was all about what he called ‘trailblazers’.
For Salesforce, Mulcahy explained, that means anyone who is using Salesforce technology to do something innovative. But Salesforce is no slouch itself in the trailblazing stakes: it posted revenues of $ 8.4 billion for its 2017 fiscal year, up 26 percent year-on-year, and can claim to be the fastest growing of the top five enterprise software companies globally.
Five areas of transformation
Mulcahy spoke of five areas of enterprise software transformation on which Salesforce is focused, the first four being speed, productivity, mobility, and connectivity. The fifth area, and the one where Salesforce obviously wants to lead the pack, is artificial intelligence. “Welcome to the age of AI,” Mulcahy told attendees.
As the walls of every industry are broken down by AI, Mulcahy wants Salesforce to be at the forefront of that change. To do so, the company hopes to spread the use of Einstein, its intelligent CRM system, announced in September last year at its Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.
Einstein works in tandem in with IBM Watson, following the Salesforce/IBM partnership announced in March of this year. “Salesforce brings predictive insights around customer data, partnering with IBM to bring predictive insights into third-party data,” Mulcahy said. The end result should be an intelligent transformation of customer interactions, the company claims.
In a live demo, Salesforce staff showed off the technology’s capabilities. Simulating a storm hitting ExCel, the team illustrated how Einstein, in tandem with IBM Watson, which is able to analyze weather patterns through IBM’s 2016 acquisition of the Weather Company, could predict the inclement weather and determine how this might affect its business users in, say, the insurance industry.
Detecting that the storm may cause damage to vehicles, the AI determined which of the insurers’ customers were likely to be affected and how best to contact them, allowing insurers to offer a proactive warning to customers before any damage could be done to their cars.
Don’t forget IoT
But it’s not just through AI that Salesforce hopes to deliver a quality customer experience. Despite receiving much less attention at the show, Salesforce IoT Cloud encapsulates another one of the company’s five areas of enterprise software transformation: connectivity. Salesforce recognizes that its customers want closer and better relationships with their customers; they want smarter products with cognitive intelligence; and they want to make processes between smart product makers and smart product consumers more efficient and reliable.
“Customers and consumers are starting to expect Uber-like experiences from business services,” Bo Mangels, who works in product marketing for IoT Cloud, told the audience. “The trend right now is that people are trying to understand how they can get their devices to communicate with each other, but not enough focus is on business applications, which is where the value comes from.”
The business applications side is where Salesforce wants to lead, Mangels noted, and the company is currently engaged in building partnerships with companies that are experts in IoT to improve its offering. Currently, the IoT Cloud connects all device data to customers’ Salesforce apps. This data is then routed to the Service Cloud, where it allows them to better communicate with customers and automate processes, such as a thermostat provider issuing homeowners with alerts when their heating is too high.
Energy management and automation company Schneider Electric, for example, was said to be improving its customer satisfaction by increasing the operational efficiency of its buildings with IoT Cloud. The company is essentially monitoring its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems to determine when staff use them the most. Schneider feeds this data into its building service plans in order to reduce energy consumption and ultimately save on costs.
Similarly, German robotics company Kuka is using IoT Cloud for predictive maintenance. Kuka’s robots are commonly used to build cars. If one of those robots in a production line goes down, however, the entire line must be switched off. Naturally, this costs time and money for the customer. Kuka is monitoring its robots with IoT Cloud and routing that data to Service Cloud to predict when the robots need maintenance before they go offline.
Both Einstein and IoT Cloud feed into what Salesforce calls its Intelligent Customer Success Platform, which places all Salesforce applications in one place with the aim of enabling business to deliver a quality customer experience. It’s about “giving you a big hug all the way through the technology journey,” as Raj Mistry, senior vice president of solution engineering at the company, told Internet of Business. “I still see so many people struggling with other platforms and how they embed IoT or AI,” Mistry said, “[but] all of the technology is here today.”
One thing that was clear throughout the presentations yesterday is that Salesforce is not sitting back and resting on its laurels, and with the success the company had last year, that ‘trailblazer’ title is well within its grasp.