Salesforce has moved three tools, which are designed to help companies improve the remote work experience for employees, into general availability. The updates were first unveiled last year when the cloud-software company began to transition from a product focused on helping businesses reopen safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, to a platform that helps companies address a wide range of employee and customer needs.

“At launch, included apps for manual contact tracing, employee wellness checks, shift scheduling, and a command center to help leaders visualize data and make informed decisions,” said Patrick Stokes, EVP & GM of Platform at Salesforce, in a company statement. “Since then, the world has evolved – and so has With the transition to remote and hybrid work, our customers asked for new ways to help their employees be productive from anywhere, while continuing to support their health and wellbeing,” added Stokes.

Employee Workspace: First announced in October 2020, Employee Workspace is a “central digital hub” that gives employees access to corporate apps, resources and collaboration tools.

Employee Concierge: Originally called Employee Helpdesk when it was announced in October 2020, Employee Concierge is a self-service portal with a Google-style search interface and powered by Einstein AI that employees can use to find answers on everything from tech support to benefits questions.

IT Service Center: A partnership with endpoint management provider Tanium, IT Service Center (ITSM) is an IT management solution that offers employees a self-service support portal and a way to submit and track service requests. ITSM also gives IT staff a way to resolve and track service incidents, as well as dashboards to help managers monitor overall service desk performance.

I had a chance to speak with Jodi Innerfield, Director of Product Marketing, these three updates and the evolution of over the past year. I also asked her if these developments signal a broader push by the cloud-software company into product areas outside of CRM and sales. The following is a transcript of our conversation, edited for readability.

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How has evolved since launch?

Bill Detwiler: So, we’re here to talk about, and some of the new announcements that Salesforce is making around But before we get to those, let’s talk a little bit about how as a platform has evolved since it was launched last year, really in response to the COVID pandemic.

Jodi Innerfield: Absolutely. It’s almost been an entire year, which is hard to believe, but when we started building and then launched, the primary concern we were trying to solve was, how do we help our customers reopen their offices safely? Because, that’s what we thought we needed. We thought everybody would just need a solution to get back into the office safely after a few weeks, a couple of months, of working from home. Obviously, things didn’t pan out that way in the world. And so, we were able to really quickly shift from the first iteration of around reopening, to solve new needs and new concerns that our customers have, which is how do we keep our employees engaged and productive when we are working from anywhere? So we’ve evolved to help meet the evolved needs and concerns of our customers around their employees.

Bill Detwiler: Yeah, no, I think before the interview, you and I were talking about how it’s been a year. I think, this was the last day that I was in the office a year ago. And I know so many people are in the same situation. So, let’s talk about those new tools. What are the new tools that Salesforce is announcing for

Jodi Innerfield: Yeah. So, we’ve launched new tools to help our customers help their employees be successful from anywhere. So there are three new solutions we’re very excited to announce. The first we’ve announced, and it’s live now, is Employee Workspace.

Salesforce Employee Workspace
Image: Salesforce

This is something that I like to think of as a digital desk. When we were back in our offices, we had our desks to go to, which is where we had all of the tools and resources we need. Our colleagues were right next to us. Maybe we passed some digital signage on the way in when you’re not in office, you don’t have that. Employee Workspace recreates that. It’s a single connected space to access the applications, and the resources, and information an employee needs to be productive and connect with their colleagues from anywhere.

Salesforce Employee Concierge
Image: Salesforce

The two new products that are live as of today, are the first is Employee Concierge, which is an intelligent, self-service help desk to help employees get access to quick answers to their questions quickly. And this is like a Google-like search interface, but instead of trying to Google, who’s the actor in that movie you just watched, you’re going to find access to any employee service need.

And finally, we have IT Service Center. This was developed in partnership with Tanium to empower it agents to quickly solve employee IT needs from anywhere.

Salesforce IT Service Center
Image: Salesforce

Building a tool for a “work from anywhere” world

Bill Detwiler: And so, talk to me a little bit about how, a little bit more about how this work from anywhere model or mode that we’re in now is really being… Salesforce is helping employers and employees adjust to this hybrid model. You mentioned this desktop, which is really sounds to me like a collaboration tool, which, and I think maybe that’s a little bit, and maybe you can speak to this too, which is, Salesforce is still seen by many as a CRM tool, something that the salespeople use, but there’s this has expanded beyond that as into something that a lot more people within the org are going to touch in a more, I guess, in a more upfront way.

So, while you might have people within an organization using Salesforce platforms in the backend to, like you said, do office reopening tasks, or using forms that were created, they don’t necessarily maybe know that they’re touching Salesforce. This seems like that next level of, “Hey, look. We’re really going to create collaboration tools and an IT portal. And, self-help, other types of self-help portals on the Salesforce platform that are now., That many more employees can engage with.

Jodi Innerfield: Absolutely. This is Salesforce for everyone in your organization, not just your Sales teams. And you’re absolutely right, that solutions like Employee Workspace are meant to help improve employee collaboration. But they’re also meant to help improve employee productivity. Think about how many different applications you access on a day-to-day basis. Think about how many different email updates you might get from your organization. I know we get a daily email digest of all of the news and resources we need to be informed to do our jobs. That’s all now in one place. So, you don’t have to click through all of the different places, you can access everything you need from one place.

The other interesting thing about why Salesforce is a great fit to now expand, not just be for your Sales teams, is we were built on relationship management. But, that relationship management that we started out with was customer relationship management. We can take those same tools and resources, those same fundamentals, to build better relationships with your employees as well. And so that’s why we’re expanding into employee experience with

How is Salesforce using internally?

Bill Detwiler: And you mentioned something right there. You talked about this daily digest, that you get there internally to Salesforce. What other ways maybe is Salesforce using

Jodi Innerfield: Absolutely. So, we have used some of our original solutions to reopen our offices globally to get back into the office. But actually, what I love is that something like Employee Concierge was inspired by a solution that we’ve used at Salesforce for years. So, we have a self-service help desk called Concierge, that we have been using for years. It is incredibly helpful to get quick answers, to access knowledge release quickly. And we used to show it to customers in demos back in the day when they would come into our offices for a customer meeting and they’d say, “I want that. I have to have that.” And so now, we’re delivering it to them. So we’re very excited that we’ve taken this solution that is known and loved by our Salesforce employees, and making it something that our customers can use.

And, like many of our solutions that we launch at Salesforce, we’re customer zero. We’re customer zero for our Workspace, for IT Service Center as well, because we need to drink our own champagne, or our own Kool-Aid, whichever you prefer to drink.

How do positive employee relationships contribute to company success?

Bill Detwiler: So, you mentioned something else a bit earlier that I think is interesting, which is Salesforce being built on managing relationships. And those managing relationships with customers and the customer experience being really important to a company. And now, transferring that to managing relationships with employees, another critical relationship. Can you talk a little bit about how important employee experience, and the employee experience in their office, with the tools they use, with their employer is really critical to a business’s bottom line?

Jodi Innerfield: Absolutely. I think employee experience often gets a bad rap as being the warm and fuzzy side of a business. But, we know from statistics, from Gallup, for example, that organizations with higher employee engagement have 22% higher productivity. And I think any executive would say, “Yeah, I really need my employees to be more productive,” and employee engagement employee experience is one way to do that.

We also know that highly engaged teams see 21% greater profitability. So, there you go. There’s your direct connection to the bottom line. When you can create more engaging experiences for your employees, they’re going to deliver better experiences or your customers. And, what’s really interesting about this hybrid or work from anywhere world, is that now every employee experience is a technology experience. So, that means we need to change the technology that we’re using, in order to create better employee experiences. So that puts the CIO and IT teams right at the center of making sure the employee experience is incredible and keeps their employees successful.

Re-imaging the employee experience in 2021 and beyond

Bill Detwiler: And let’s drill down on that part of it a little bit more, in terms of how the employee experience is changing in 2021. We talk about this hybrid model, that I think one of the things that we have learned is that over the next few years, work is going to change, the future of work is going to be a mix of people working remotely, either all or most of the time. And then people coming into the office, a smaller amount of time for meetings for those in-person interactions that are also very valuable, but also that being a new way for companies to look at how they recruit, and where they locate their employees, and how they hire. So, it sounds like, as the way you’re describing it, that technology is so important to make sure that everything works, and to make sure that employees have a positive experience through that technology.

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I think we can all agree that we get tired of Zoom meetings, because we’re all looking into these little round circles eight hours a day. And so that in and of itself has an effect on the employee experience. But how do you see the experience within that context changing this year?

Jodi Innerfield: I think we really have to focus on how we’re enabling employees to have that great experience, whether they choose to continue working from home, or they’re back in the office. So how do you make sure you have as good an experience, no matter the situation? Whether that’s a choice the employee gets to make, or a choice the employer gets to make. So, a great example would be with IT support. I will admit, I was a frequent flyer at our Tech Bar when we were back in the office. They knew me by name. Obviously, that’s not something we can… I can’t just walk up to anybody with my laptop anymore when I’m working from my mom’s kitchen. And my mom is certainly not going to help me with those challenges either. So instead, with a solution like Employee Concierge, I can very quickly see if I can triage my issue myself with self-service. That’s a fast way to get me back to work if I can answer my own question.

And then with IT Service Center, if for whatever reason I can’t triage my own issue, the IT agents that get access to my case have complete visibility into my device, into what’s happening, and they can triage the issue quickly, so that they can get onto more pressing issues, and so that I can get back into more Zoom meetings.

So I think the employee experience, as we continue to see this hybrid work world, will mean how do we create an engaging experience no matter where our employees decide or are told to work?

What other relationships is Salesforce looking to help companies manage?

Bill Detwiler: So, my last question falls along with that. And it’s a little… I’m not asking you to reveal anything, secrets, but definitely the evolution of last year of We talked about this a little early with Salesforce starting out as a sales, a CRM application. And then really with the acquisitions over the decades, becoming a platform company, and expanding into things like we’re talking about, which is IT, that IT interaction, which is a space that other companies really played in before now. Where do you see the future of Salesforce? What are the other areas of those relationships that companies have, whether with employees, or with potential customers, or with regulatory entities, or with other… What are the other… There are a lot of relationships that companies have to manage. Are there other areas that Salesforce is looking at ways to improve those interactions?

Jodi Innerfield: I think one of the things that’s great about the flexibility of the Salesforce platform is that we can react to the changing needs of our customers and of the world, as they happen. So, as our customers’ needs continue to evolve and change in this rapidly evolving and changing world, we’ll continue to make sure that we are delivering not only what they think they need, but something that they didn’t even realize they need. And I think that is just a testament to scalability and flexibility of the platform. And I also think you’ll continue to see us do just that in our innovations.

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Bill Detwiler: And what are you hearing from customers? I love the statistics that you gave earlier, in talking about the importance of a positive experience on productivity, and on the company’s bottom line. What are you hearing from your customers about what they’re looking at, and what they’re looking for? Like, along those same lines like, “Yeah. We really love this tool.” We were talking about it. “We love this tool that you have, we would like to have this too.” Yeah. What are you hearing from customers? What are their needs?

Jodi Innerfield: Yeah. Our customers, I think, have also identified that the world has changed, which means the technology that they’re using for their employees needs to change, it needs to keep up. What they were using when everybody was in an office is not sufficient enough in order to keep everybody productive and engaged. And so, as we’ve been piloting these products with our customers, as we’ve been, our Sales teams, have been on Zooms with them, connecting with them, they’re incredibly excited to have new and innovative ways to engage with their employees, to connect with their employees. And really just to think of new ways to create a more engaging and a more sustainable employee experience. Because it’s been a tough year for everybody, and so everybody is really rethinking how we approach employee experience for this, I hate the phrase, but this new normal, really.

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