a woman holding her hands in front of her face

Do you offer your clients a mobile app? Then to stay competitive, you better offer them service through that app as well. So says Salesforce.com.

How does it know this? Other than, that is, its outsized presence in the CRM market?

Salesforce has begun surveying users of CRM applications through a third-party company to understand the industry's best -- and not-so-best -- practices. The above finding, plus others, comes from that survey and is part of a report it just released called the State of Service.

The report, based on surveys of more than 1,900 global customer service leaders, came to the not-so-surprising conclusion that top customer service organizations "are aggressively adopting technology to respond to customers' expectation of a fast and personalized experience across all devices and channels."

'Surfacing Useful Information'

Last month the company released a similar report called the State of Sales. Earlier in the year it released the State of Marketing and a report on how enterprises are using wearables. The reports ask respondents to self-identify as high-performing or, in the case of sales, as very confident or moderately confident. Using those descriptions, it identifies the leading practices.

The survey base is a broader one than Salesforce users, Sara Varni, head of marketing for Salesforce Sales Cloud, told CMSWire, in an interview when the sales survey was released. "The point is to surface useful information and industry trends that our customers need," she said. "We are constantly looking at what is happening in the industry and this is another way we are doing that." 

In addition, she added, the results often reinforce strategic decisions Salesforce has made with its production direction.

One suspects that the results from this survey will indeed be supportive of the forthcoming product announcements expected at Dreamforce, being held next month in San Francisco. Certainly that was the pattern when Salesforce released its wearables report, followed by a slew of wearable apps from its partners for the Apple Watch.

Customers Want Help on the Spot

That said, the results reflect larger trends emerging in the industry. One overarching finding is that customers expect service wherever they happen to be -- say, on a mobile app. Service, in other words, has to go omnichannel along with sales if companies want to stay competitive.

Salesforce does offer functionality in this respect but the result does resonate. Chalk it up to Internet or consumers ever-growing sophistication about their buying options, or even just a general sense of entitlement more people seem to have. The reality is this: when a customer wants help with a product, even an app downloaded for free, he wants it now.

The survey found that more than one-third of high-performing service teams are already delivering customer service via mobile apps, with an expected 67 percent growth over the next two years.

Empowered Agents Can Provide It

Another best practice in service identified by Salesforce was the rise of the "empowered agent." 

It found that top teams are nearly 3.5 times more likely than underperformers to say their service agents are completely empowered to make customers happy. 

The report also helpfully notes that "giving service agents the right tools goes a long way toward helping them feel empowered, and high-performing teams embrace technology. Top performers are 2.5 times more likely than moderate performers to be heavy tech adopters." Yes, Salesforce has a robust service feature set.

Proactive Service = Predictive Service

Top performing service teams are also proactive in their support of the customer, the survey found. Some 55 percent of high-performing service teams say they’re able to predict customer service needs more than 80 percent of the time. 

"Emerging smart technologies are helping service organizations glean actionable insights, anticipate customer needs, and provide everything from more efficient call routing to faster case history access," the report said.

Predictive analytics, of course, are becoming a necessity in CRM and related products; it was a major component of the sales survey released earlier this summer. Indeed, its prominent role was surprising to Varni. "That really jumped out at me," she said. "I usually think of analytics as residing in operations."

In its State of Sales report, Salesforce found that high-performing sales teams are 3.5 times more likely than underperforming teams to use sales analytics. It went on to predict that across teams at all levels, there will be a 58 percent increase in sales analytics use from 2015 to 2016. 

"Smart selling, fueled by technologies like predictive analytics, starts piquing sales teams’ interest and is expected to jump 77 percent among high performers in the next 12 to 18 months," the report stated. 

Incidentally, the sales report also identified mobile as a key channel for sales. It found that top sales organizations are significantly more likely to use mobile sales apps -- nearly 60 percent of high-performing sales teams already use or are planning to use a mobile sales app, which is two times more than underperformers.

In a way this is intuitive, Varni said. "Buyers have become far more sophisticated in the buying journey, doing their research ahead of time and approaching sales only when they have all the information they can find." The best sales teams understand that trend and more than meet these buyers halfway.

Now it appears that service has to follow suit.