Maximize 2021 - service can make you a hero to your customers, says Salesforce’s Denise Dresser

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan March 17, 2021
Once archetypal 'frenemies', Salesforce and ServiceMax are now BFFs - and there's good reason for that, argues Salesforce's Denise Dresser.

Denise Dresser Salesforce
Denise Dresser

Denise never gave up on us and we never gave up on Denise and Salesforce - and we're back together in a big way, which is great.

The Denise to whom ServiceMax CEO Neil Barua is referring is Denise Dresser, EVP Sales, CMT Operating Unit at Salesforce, where she heads up the distribution and go-to-market strategy for some of North America's largest strategic accounts for the firm.

The reason for such a personal plaudit from Barua during the opening keynote at Maximize 2021 this week isn’t too hard to imagine for any long term observers of both companies. Salesforce and ServiceMax had long been ‘frenemies’ or, as the cliched marketing term would have it, they were a prime example of ‘co-opetition’ in action. ServiceMax built out its field service management offerings as part of the Salesforce ecosystem, while Salesforce over time built up more and more of its own footprint in that space.

What would the end game be? Would ServiceMax have to break with its Salesforce-centricity? Would Salesforce become an ever more active competitor to ServiceMax? Might - and whisper it softly - might Salesforce end up acquiring ServiceMax? All of these have been questions I’ve regularly posed to Barua and his predecessors over the years, typically met with a polite, but non-committal response. But behind the scenes in both camps there must, I surmise, have been a growing awareness that this situation needed to come to a conclusion.

As Barua noted in his talk with me last week, that unresolved tension dissipated just over a year ago when a formal detente was struck between the two firms and scaled up co-operation became the order of the day. It’s the best outcome for customers, argues Barua. It’s also the best outcome for both vendors as uncertainty around intentions could only have become more of an issue as time went on.


So now as BFFs, Salesforce and ServiceMax are joined at the field service hip and executing a joint development and go-to-market strategy. It’s a state of affairs that has top level support on both sides - Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff signed off on the rapprochement - with executives such as Dresser having been advocates of closer ties all along.

For her part, Dresser argues that there are two main things that Salesforce and ServiceMax can deliver together for customers that they couldn’t have done separately - asset-based functionality and outcomes-based service models:

When we see customers that are equipment-centric, they have unique requirements, but they're very specific. Being able to manage multiple types of service contracts - warranty types, entitlements - that complexity can grow and grow and grow. What brings the power of this partnership together is being able to build on our data model, and then have solutions for asset-centric businesses. That is the great example of [ServiceMax] bringing the expertise to the table to help us be relevant with our customers in field service. We would not be able to do that on our own.

And then there’s outcomes aspect, she adds, that is equally important:

People aren't buying Service Cloud because they want a better agent desktop or they're not buying Field Service because they want a cool mobile app; it's about a job to be done. They want to have a better customer experience, they want to maximize lifetime value, they want to empower all the people on the front line to deliver great service. When I think about service models changing and being more outcomes-based to open up new revenue opportunities, as you move to an outcomes-based model, you almost think about your customer in the same way. You think about a journey around a selling motion; that is what service is like. It's a very, very specific motion.

I think that the partnership with ServiceMax and collaborating to bring Asset 360 to the market is really bringing the best of the [Salesforce] platform and Field Service and ServiceMax all together, moving quickly, leveraging a platform, having a great ecosystem and being relevant to our customers. Those are the areas to me that have stood out all year long and had done for a while.

Service significance

From Salesforce’s perspective, service has been a growing focus for many years. Service Cloud has long been the fastest growing single cloud in the company portfolio - as far back as 2018, Phil Wainewright speculated on how long it would take for it to overtake Sales Cloud! - although Marketing/Commerce and Platform/Other recently reported higher growth rates from smaller bases. But what’s happened to date is only the start, reckons Dresser:

We are really just scratching the surface of the potential of what service is. Service is ‘the new’. Service is the front door to everything that you do with a company and we take that really seriously. It's the front door when you reach out to an organization, but it's also the way that they show up [to customers].

And attitudes towards service delivery have changed, she adds, all the more so during the pandemic in the case of field service:

It becomes even more important and a differentiator. For example, when you see somebody show up in the field in person to help you and you watch how they take precautions  and you watch how well they get their job done, you feel like, ‘I've had a personal experience where I really respect this brand’.

As well as enhancing brand reputation, service is a driver for corporate growth, says Dresser, pointing to telco AT&T as a case in point:

They were trying to connect every touch point and deliver world class service, but they were also trying to create heroes. They were trying to give their agents as much information as they possibly needed at any point in time to be the hero to the customer. I think what's exciting for me is if you were to talk to an organization maybe four years ago, it would maybe that service was a cost center; now, it's an enabler. Again, it's the front door. What's becoming even more exciting about that is, we are in a world where data is king or queen and leveraging data in the service world is like a secret weapon. That to me is really exciting - the way that companies are changing how they think about service and what data can do for them.

The Vaccine Economy

Looking out into the Vaccine Economy, this evolved attitude to service isn’t going into reverse-gear, predicts Dresser:

It seems like we're not doing run-of-the-mill work any more. Companies are looking to transform, they're looking to find ways to grow out of this pandemic, to create new business models. Through our platform and ServiceMax bringing all the pre-configured capability, it's such a no-brainer. It's in an area where our customers are going;  it's going where the puck is going. It's not kind of day-to-day; it's really transformational. What gets me excited working with [ServiceMax] is that we're not keeping the lights on; we’re helping customers create new business models to unlock the power of data.

In this new world, speed will be critical, she suggests, noting the by-now familiar COVID truism that digital transformation has accelerated during the crisis:

I think that we have proven what is possible when you let go of orthodoxy and you move at the speed that you need to. This speed imperative is here to stay and I think that's a great thing. But you've got to have a great platform that allows you to stay at the forefront, to react quickly, to be able to innovate.

I think about field service and about how that's become so much more part of the brand when people are on the frontlines, showing up and doing great work. [They’ve] had to innovate with things like a virtual remote assistant or helping customers think about how they pivot to a self-service environment and chatbots and developing things like [Salesforce’s] Appointment Assistant. All these things happen because of the powerful platform and all the great work that [is done] on our platform.

If you have a great platform, it's kind of like future-proofing yourself, because you can evolve and innovate all the time.

Brave new world?

Such future-proofing really matters, she concludes, because the world has changed, whether we like it or not, and every organization needs to assess its priorities:

When you look at the things that you thought were important and then the world stopped, you haven't gone back to [those]. Everything has changed now. To me, that's a really startling reality - how much has changed and how much it's going to continue to change. That's a really interesting mental exercise to go through - think about a year ago, what you thought was important, where you ended up and now how you're thinking about the world. That's how our customers are thinking. Nothing is the same, the past is gone.

That’s not intended to end on a downbeat note however. At the end of day, Dresser is clearly a glass-half-full person:

I'm so optimistic about our partnership [with ServiceMax]. I am so optimistic about the space that we're talking about…But I'm also optimistic about the future. I think we've proven that we are an incredibly resilient society. We've learned some things we maybe didn't want to learn about where we can improve as a society as well, but I'm really optimistic that we are going to get out of this. The light is at the end of the tunnel and we're going to come out stronger.

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