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Salesforce.com Releases Field Service Lightning
Field service reps can now tend to on-site customer issues using their mobile devices.
Posted Mar 15, 2016
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Many people have had the misfortune of waiting for a technician who is scheduled to show up between, say, 8 a.m. and noon on a Wednesday. Until he rings our doorbell, we're left waiting without much of a clue as to his whereabouts or how much the service will cost when all is said and done. To make the lives of waiting customers—and those of the field reps catering to them—more hassle-free, Salesforce.com today released Field Service Lightning, software that unites data from connected devices with the information stored in CRM to help field service professionals efficiently handle customer issues.

"By 2020, there will be 58 connected devices per person," explains Sarah Patterson, senior vice president of product marketing and strategy at Salesforce.com. And as the Internet of Things (IoT) gains steam and machines are able to digitally notify businesses the moment a service is required, people will "expect to be more connected to the companies they do business with." Unfortunately, Patterson adds, organizations are still unprepared for the shift. She says that 54 percent of companies are relying on manual methods to handle field service inquiries. With today's release, Patterson says, Salesforce.com takes "field service out of the dark ages" with the intention of accelerating IoT strategies.

Built on Salesforce.com's Service Cloud, Field Service Lightning "enables a connected, intelligent, and mobile service experience," Patterson says. It draws in part on scheduling and optimization features from ClickSoftware and links those capabilities to the other functions of Salesforce.com, including its Marketing Cloud.

With the solution, end users—i.e., agents, dispatchers, and mobile employees—are granted access to a platform that details customer activity history, including any previous purchases or inquiries they've made. Referring to this information, a service agent can gather the details necessary to resolve a customer issue. According to Patterson, it also enables agents to double as salespeople, as they can leverage collateral stored in Salesforce.com's Marketing Cloud, for instance, to determine whether there's opportunity to make an additional sale. If a field agent is asked to make an on-site trip to fix an Internet connection, for instance, she might learn that the customer in question has inquired on a previous occasion about faster Internet connections. With the insight, she can present them with upgrade options and discount packages. 

Patterson adds that the product adds a layer of intelligence to scheduling and automates assignments based on the skills and availability of agents, as well as the locations of on-site service calls. It can determine, for example, when a task requires complex knowledge and assign it to a senior employee who is most qualified to handle the situation. Conversely, it can determine which calls are more routine and assign less experienced employees to those duties. The dispatchers can get an updated view of these operations, adjust their resources, and plan accordingly. If a job ends up taking longer than expected, or a technician is delayed by traffic, the dispatcher can notify someone to take his place so that a customer's appointment is not delayed.

"We built this as a mobile-first solution," Patterson stresses. Agents can track and manage their assignments on the go, as Lightning enables them to update their work orders, issue change requests, and adjust job statuses within their CRM workflow. Agents won't be forced to print out their service tickets, for instance, and can instead refer to their smartphones. 

Field Service Lightning is generally available today, and pricing begins at $135 for organizations that have at least one Enterprise Edition or Unlimited Edition Service Cloud license. 

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