Exploring AI-Driven Customer Service Innovations with Salesforce’s Ryan Nichols and AWS’s Randy Hand

Exploring AI-Driven Customer Service Innovations with Salesforce's Ryan Nichols and AWS's Randy Hand

On this episode of “In the Booth” from Enterprise Connect 2024, The Futurum Group’s Craig Durr talks with Ryan Nichols, Chief Product Officer for Service Cloud at Salesforce, and Randy Hand, Head of Solution Architecture at AWS, about the transformative role of AI in customer service and the strategic partnership between Salesforce and AWS that enhances contact center solutions.

Their discussion covers:

  • The impact of Generative AI on customer service strategies and its potential to revolutionize contact center efficiency and customer satisfaction.
  • The collaboration between Salesforce and AWS, highlighting how their integrated solutions leverage AI and cloud technologies to innovate contact center operations.
  • Salesforce’s Service Cloud Voice and how it utilizes AI and CRM data to provide a unified and personalized customer service experience across various channels.
  • Future innovations from Salesforce in the contact center space, focusing on AI and data-driven solutions to enhance customer interactions and operational effectiveness.

Learn more about how you can reimagine service with Trusted AI by visiting Salesforce’s Service Cloud solution.

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Craig Durr: Hey everyone, this is Craig Durr, practice lead at The Futurum Group, and we’re here live at Enterprise Connect 2024. Now, this is the premier show for communications and customer experiences, technology, and solutions, and I’m excited to introduce you two guests of mine to help talk about the solutions they’re bringing to market. First, I want to introduce Ryan Nichols, Chief Product Officer from Service Cloud at Salesforce. And Randy Hand, Head of Solutions Architecture from AWS. Gentlemen, how are you guys doing?

Ryan Nichols: Great to be here, Craig.

Craig Durr: I am glad you’re here too. And as a matter of fact, it’s really important that you’re here because there’s this premier conference where we’re talking about leading solutions to come together. It’s important that we hear from the number one CRM provider as well as the market leading cloud provider as well too in here. But before we talk about the partnership at hand, let’s start level setting this conversation. There’s a lot of interesting things taking place in market, Ryan, right now, in particular around gen AI and how this is impacting the customer services industry. What is your view right now of what this technology looks like and how it’s changing?

Ryan Nichols: Well, Craig, it’s certainly the talk of the show. Every conversation starts with a question about generative AI. It’s the biggest change we’ve seen to customer support in probably a generation. I think the shift from last year’s conference where we had the glimmer of generative AI in our eye was this year we have a much better understanding that every conversation about generative AI starts with AI, and it ends with a conversation about data. Really understanding what it is that’s required to take advantage of these incredible large language models. They’re so conversational, and yet they’re going to make stuff up unless you ground those models on what’s true, your data, data about your customers, data about your products and services. And that gap is something that everybody at the show is now coming in understanding and asking questions about, how do I get my data together to ground my generative AI?

Randy Hand: Yeah, it’s really exciting to see that there’s an avenue now for customers to use these technologies in real world use cases. And that’s one of the great things about Contact Center is that we’ve been working toward this moment for a long time. At Amazon, we have a history of AI technologies and building ML technologies internally, and for many years now, we’ve been working on democratizing that, putting it in the hands of people who can actually use it, that don’t have to be data scientists and don’t have to be deep into the weeds of the technology. And with what we’re doing with Salesforce, it’s fantastic because you can surface those capabilities in a way that’s easy to consume and leads to very powerful results for our customers.

Ryan Nichols: I think that’s such a good point, Randy, that you don’t have to be a prompt engineer. You don’t to be a data scientist. You don’t be a machine learning engineer in order to make use of these technologies. I was with a customer earlier this week, spent 45 minutes between just turning on the capability, configuring it, and then making it available to their agents. Now, doing that in a trusted way requires that you have the right foundation in place. You need to have your channels together. You need to have your knowledge together. But when you have that foundation, it’s not hard. You can do it in a trusted way that’s grounded on your data and use that as a starting point for a journey.

Craig Durr: You know, what I really like is I think this year we are moving from this idea of promise to proof. And what you’re talking about right now is actually showing how this is making into valuable business decisions. They’re helping drive important decisions as well. So let’s talk more about the partnership now. So you’ve recently announced how you’ve expanded the partnership between Salesforce and AWS and in particular Service Cloud and AWS. But let’s begin with where was the genesis of this partnership and what are the new ideas that you bring into market now?

Ryan Nichols: Salesforce and AWS have been partners for years on pretty much every layer of the technology stack to infrastructure with Salesforce and HyperForce on AWS to our data integration and infrastructure all the way up into the application layer. And it’s really at that application layer, right between Amazon Connect and Service Cloud, that in integration, that started, what was it about four years ago now?

Randy Hand: Almost five.

Ryan Nichols: Five years ago, right? So we’ve been at this a while with really a vision for two of the big topics at this conference, CCAS and CRM should come together. We’ve been stuck between these two market categories with CTI style integrations. Everyone’s seen them. It’s when there’s a little eye frame in the corner of your service console that tries to cram an entire contact center’s worth of functionality into that corner and AWS and Salesforce said, “There’s got to be a better way, right? There’s got to be a way to more deeply integrate CCAS and CRM.” And that’s what we launched five years ago.

Randy Hand: Yeah, absolutely. And there are thorny problems in contact centers doing it the old way. One of those we talked about already is data and how do you get the data from voice and digital channels and all the other parts of Customer 360 into one place that you can interpret what is going on in your contact center. That’s something we feel like we’ve come a long way in solving with this solution.

Craig Durr: So we’re really talking about a true omnichannel or omni view of what’s taking place with that customer relationship, bringing it end to and empowering those service agents to make more informed decisions as well as supervisors as well too. Right?

Ryan Nichols: That’s exactly right. And this last fall was a big step forward in that we announced a significant expansion of the broader strategic relationship between Salesforce and AWS on each one of those layers of the technology stack. But most exciting probably to the two of us was the deeper integration between Service Cloud and Amazon Connect. And what we really did is expanded what was an initial integration that was a little more voice centric. That was the thorniest problem to solve. And so we started there, but expanding that to include the full CCAS capabilities of Amazon Connect and allowing our joint customers to bring that and deeply integrate that into Service Cloud in a way that’s much deeper than that UX style integration. It’s a data integration for not just voice channels, but other digital channels as well, and all of the data that you need to improve your service quality over time, forecasting data, quality data, all of that deeply integrated with Service Cloud as well.

Randy Hand: And one of the key things is that when you talk about those types of integrations, it can sound complex, and what we’ve done is removed what we often term undifferentiated heavy lifting, letting customers get to value really quickly because we’ve done all the hard work ahead of time. For generative AI, we know that that will only work with good data, lots of data. Having the ability to plug in this solution and have that immediately flow into the Salesforce framework to access all those capabilities is something our customers are really going to like.

Craig Durr: So Ryan, help me understand this. Perhaps you have a customer example you can talk about that can help understand the needs and the benefits that these customers have seen implementing the solution.

Ryan Nichols: So many of our joint customers have been experiencing the benefits over the last couple of years. One of my favorites is Sonos, the beloved maker of smart home speakers that many of us enjoy in our homes and Sonos as they shifted to having direct relationships with their consumers as opposed to always being intermediated by a retailer, realized how important it was to understand what their customers were asking about and using that to improve the quality of their service over time. And that required not just having data about their conversations with customers, but the actual conversational data coming into their Customer 360, and especially operating in a distributed way. The way that Sonos does, the way that so many contact centers do today, that information needs to be aggregated from all the heads of your agents that are working around the globe and brought together into an environment where you can extract insight from it.

And that’s what Sonos has done, both for the voice channel as well as their digital channels and some great insights have come out of it. They had a great program in place for a break fix if something happened with your Sonos speaker. They had great knowledge, great assistance for their agents to help customers through that. But when they looked at the conversations that weren’t performing so well, there were conversations that had nothing to do with break fix. There were conversations with customers that hadn’t set up their speakers yet, and that was an insight that came out of looking at mass quantities of customer conversations, and it was easy to take action on that in Service Cloud. You could go from that insight to creating some articles about speaker setup and then publishing those so that the next time a customer calls in with that the agent is armed, or even better, the customer can just help themselves and find that content in the portal.

Craig Durr: Randy, this is hitting some of the benefits that you just talked about, right? It’s almost a laundry list.

Randy Hand: Absolutely. So this customer was able to get up and running very quickly, and within their operational environment, they have now a single pane of glass. So it helps the agents do their job faster. It creates happier customers because their problems are getting solved faster. And then to your point, all of that data is now being harvested and can be used to figure out, what do I need to do with my business? I’m no longer worried about how to stitch together a contact center and pieces of data. I’m thinking about how do I improve my business? How do I focus on the thing that’s most important to my customer? And that’s where we want customers to get to, and I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do with generative AI and some of these new things.

Craig Durr: Well, that’s a great lead in. I mean, this paradigm shift is taking place. And so now we’re at this point that the horizon is almost here now. I would love to hear more about some of the updates that you guys have announced here between the partnership as well as some of the new feature sets coming out as well too.

Ryan Nichols: It’s been an exciting week, Craig. We made a big announcement on Monday where we talked about how AI and data to the biggest investment areas for Salesforce and Salesforce and AWS together are being brought to the Contact Center, and it does start with the Sonos examples, a great one of understanding the both explicit and implicit feedback that you’re getting from your customers. So how do you use Einstein conversation, minings to extract insight from conversations. How do you summarize all the surveys that you’ve been getting from your customers and then use that to take action, take action by generating a knowledge article. There’s nothing more intimidating than that Blank Create Knowledge article screen that you see, and every expert says you got to create knowledge at the moment of service, but who has time for that? There’s always another customer to get to. So being able to generatively create a knowledge article by transforming an existing customer conversation is an incredible time saver,

Craig Durr: And that’s what’s coming out now.

Ryan Nichols: That’s live now. Generating knowledge off of customer conversations is live, and then being able to recommend those knowledge articles so that next time a customer calls in, that article, the model pulls it up and says, this is the article that’s going to be most helpful to this next customer conversation.

Craig Durr: That’s powerful. That is really powerful.

Randy Hand: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Look, the world is moving really quickly, and we want our customers to not just keep up, but to be leading in their domains, and I think this is how they’re going to do it.

Craig Durr: This has been a lot of great information, stuff that’s come out just Monday, but still there’s a lot for people to learn. So Ryan, if people want to learn more, what should they do next steps?

Ryan Nichols: Well, if you’re here at Enterprise Connect, come find us down in the booth. We love having conversations about data and AI in the Contact Center. If you’re not here at the show, you can find all that online, and look for our Contact Center solutions. I think the main takeaway that I’d love for everybody to just go home with is that while there’s this excitement around generative AI, it starts with data and having a conversation about how you bring together your knowledge, your customer data, your conversational data. Whether that’s on Data Cloud, you need to have that story in order. That’s what’s going to allow you to deploy trusted generative AI.

Craig Durr: Right. I love it. That is a great best practice and a great final thought to end this conversation on. Gentlemen, thank you so much. That was very informative. Everyone, if you want to find out more, please check out the URL that’s available on this video. My name is Craig Durr with The Futurum Group, and we are here live at Enterprise Connect. Thank you for taking the time to view this.

Author Information

As Practice Lead - Workplace Collaboration, Craig focuses on developing research, publications and insights that clarify how the workforce, the workplace, and the workflows enable group collaboration and communication. He provides research and analysis related to market sizing and forecasts, product and service evaluations, market trends, and end-user and buyer expectations. In addition to following the technology, Craig also studies the human elements of work - organizing his findings into the workforce, the workplace, and the workflows – and charting how these variables influence technologies and business strategies.

Prior to joining Wainhouse, now a part of The Futurum Group, Craig brings twenty years of experience in leadership roles related to P&L management, product development, strategic planning, and business development of security, SaaS, and unified communication offerings. Craig's experience includes positions at Poly, Dell, Microsoft, and IBM.

Craig holds a Master of Business Administration from the Texas McCombs School of Business as well as a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Tulane University.


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