Salesforce Field Service Lightning gets appointment, scheduling upgrades

While the new Field Service Lightning features will help Salesforce users connect customers to their service needs, it lacks any of that Einstein touch of other Salesforce products.

Have you ever been annoyed at the four-hour window that field service providers offer for maintenance, ultimately hijacking your entire afternoon?

To help alleviate service issues, like appointment scheduling, returns and making sure the right technician is at the right assignment, Salesforce upgraded its field service product to quell these common concerns.

Two years after its release, Salesforce Field Service Lightning received several new features, including appointment management, a simplified return process and enhanced crew scheduling for internal purposes. The product also has Guided Setup on Trailhead to help users customize their field service product to their particular needs. However, it lacks any AI capabilities, which is odd, given the roughly year-and-a-half existence of Einstein.

But for Salesforce customers, the benefit of Field Service Lightning is when it's connected to the larger Salesforce ecosystem of products, according to Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research, based in Boston.

"It's the sum of everything that makes it attractive," Wettemann said. "Talking with Salesforce customers, field service is about that integration with CRM and other Salesforce products."

Salesforce executives agreed, adding that companies want that complete view of a customer on one platform.

"We're helping companies empower their mobile field employees by delivering that service customers expect today," said Dana Chery, senior director of product marketing for Field Service Lightning at Salesforce.

Appointment, crew scheduling among new features

Across all businesses, there's a greater emphasis on aligning sales, marketing and service departments to provide a holistic view of a customer before, during and after a sale. By tying Salesforce Field Service Lightning to a customer's CRM profile, a company can provide the appropriate service by having the necessary information available, rather than starting from scratch with each service inquiry.

Talking with Salesforce customers, field service is about that integration with CRM and other Salesforce products.
Rebecca Wettemannvice president, Nucleus Research

Salesforce Field Service Lightning is far from the only field service product on the market, with others like ServiceMax, Kickserv, Apptivo and Housecall Pro all offering similar capabilities. But it's the combination of integrating post-sale service with the rest of that customer data that can enhance a customer's experience and keep them happy, even during an annoying or time-consuming maintenance call.

Of the new Salesforce Field Service Lightning features, the most customer-facing piece is the Appointment Management. Instead of calling a company and finding the right person to schedule a maintenance appointment, customers can schedule a service time with a couple clicks of the mouse, saving time and stress, while allowing for more flexibility.

"It's also great for smaller companies trying to differentiate themselves on service," Wettemann said. "You don't have to pull the webmaster in to figure out how to integrate a calendar with scheduling."

Similarly, with the Crew Scheduling feature, companies can be sure to get the right technicians in the right places at the right time, rather than hoping the field service agents heading to a home or business have the correct tools or products with them. And if the customer wants to return a product, it can be administered by the field service agents on site with the return orders feature.

"We know that customer experience is a make-or-break experience for building relationships with customers," Chery said.

Where's the AI?

Yet, with these enhancements making it easier on companies and customers to get field service work done, a key component of the Salesforce ecosystem is missing from this upgrade: AI. Salesforce has been cautious with its Einstein rollout, deliberately upgrading its various cloud products one at a time. But the lack of Einstein in this Salesforce Field Service Lightning upgrade seems odd, given the potential with appointment and crew scheduling -- two areas that would benefit from looking at mass amounts of service data. Salesforce did introduce Einstein Vision for Field Service Lightning in a previous upgrade.

The lack of AI functionality could be due to Salesforce Field Service Lightning still being just 2 years old and AI needing substantial data sets to be valuable.

"I'd argue that field service is too new, and customers may not have enough data to drive it," Wettemann said, adding that the current rules-based appointment scheduling that exists now lends itself to AI capabilities in the future.

Return Orders and Guided Setup are available for no additional cost with a Salesforce Field Service Lightning license, while Crew Scheduling is available for no additional cost with a Field Service Lightning Dispatcher and Field Service Lightning Plus license. Appointment Management will be available in pilot at no additional cost starting in June to customers with both Field Service Lightning and Community Cloud licenses.

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