Salesforce announced multiple updates to its solution this week designed to help companies adjust to the new normal of increased remote work and re-opening amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Launched in June, was originally planned as a suite of new and existing Salesforce solutions brought together in one place to help companies and organizations return to work safely in the wake of COVID-19. However as the pandemic continues around the world, governments, companies, and workers are realizing that many workplaces will be forever changed.

“ focused originally on helping companies reopen safely, but now people are transitioning,” said Sarah Franklin, EVP and GM, Platform, Trailhead and AppExchange at Salesforce in an interview with TechRepublic. “We’re in a new normal that demands a new way to work. And is expanding from just safety and crisis to employee experience, and helping everybody keep their employees happy, healthy, and productive, and really get that focus back on growth, which is so, so, so important.”

In September, the company announced for Vaccines, that featured updates to help city, state and federal governments distribute, track and measure their COVID-19 vaccination programs. The updates announced today focus on two areas: improving employee engagement/productivity and safely handling in-person customer interactions.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium) Employee Workspace and Helpdesk

Employee Workspace: A “central digital hub” from which employees can access corporate apps and resources. A company’s Workspace could show or link to Salesforce apps (such as myTrailhead and Quip), custom software built on Salesforce’s platform, proprietary in-house systems, or even third-party resources (such as Google Workspace). Companies can also use Workspace to keep remote workers connected through “personalized communications, embedded collaboration apps, and notifications.”

Salesforce Employee Workspace
Image: Salesforce

“There’s a lot of other things that [employees] need to figure out, and there might be multiple systems that [they] might not necessarily know where to go to get those questions answered,” said Franklin. “And so, with the Workspace, [they] get one single pane of glass to answer all those questions.”

Employee Helpdesk: A portal for employees to ask questions and find solutions on everything from IT issues and facilities to benefits and career development. Beyond just simple FAQs, Helpdesk will feature “Einstein AI-powered chatbots that provide access to knowledge articles and escalation paths, across any department.”

Salesforce Employee Helpdesk
Image: Salesforce

“What this really gets down to, which is why I find this so compelling for Salesforce to be doing this, is that you want to treat your employees like valued customers,” said Franklin. “And today, it’s more important than ever that companies connect with their employees in a digital work from anywhere world…this is the key for every organization to move from just survival mode into how they thrive and look forward to growth with happy, healthy, and productive employees.” updates for “safer in-person experiences”

Queue Management: This tool will enable companies and organizations to create virtual lines at their brick-and-mortar locations and minimize physical customer queues. Customers can use an app to reserve a place in line and get updates about their wait through the app or SMS text message.

Broadcast Messaging: Companies can use this feature of to communicate important information to customers and employees, such as changes to hours of operation or appointment times, health and safety reminders, etc. Businesses can send messages via platforms such as text, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger. Follow-up questions or service requests that occur as a result of any communications, can then be automatically responded to with “chatbots and personalized service communications.”

Mobile examples of Salesforce Queue Management, Broadcast Messaging, and Digital Trust Cards
Individual images: Salesforce

Digital Trust Cards: Companies can use these virtual placards to give customers important information about their physical locations, such as mask requirements, cleaning policies, and social distancing requirements. The information can be display on a website or within an app and employees can easily update the information as it changes.

SEE: COVID-19: Three business practices I’ll maintain from lockdown life (TechRepublic)

New normal of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating changes that were already happening in many organizations, such as increased telecommuting, digital transformation, and shifting systems into the cloud and onto XaaS solutions. Many of those shifts will become permanent, even after the current outbreak subsides.

At the end of our interview, I asked Franklin to talk about the future, to share what Salesforce was hearing from its customers about, not just what they needed to re-open and survive during COVID-19, but to grow once we begin to come out of the pandemic.

“The reality is that we’re living in the future. The future is now,” said Franklin. “The future is where the digital imperative has just come just right straight at us. It’s no longer five years away, it is today. And customers are asking us to do more, not just with employees, helping them be productive and healthy, but also how do we develop them and connect with talent across the organization.”

Salesforce, like other companies, is adapting to this new normal and it seems will play a significant part of their plans for near future.

“I would love for the pandemic to be over today,” said Franklin. “I think we all would. But what we do know, is that as change happens, we’re going to adapt and change with…and evolve and innovate for our customers.”

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