This post is part of an occasional series on the AppExchange as Salesforce.com celebrates the seventh anniversary of its launch. The series will focus on some of the most interesting AppExchange applications of the last year.
TOA Technologies is an AppExchange partner focusing on mobile workforce management, which provides an important extension to the Salesforce CRM solution set. In the early days of CRM the category went by a different name — field service automation or FSA — which better reflected the fact that until then, most of the work we now associate with deploying and directing field service personnel was manual.
While the initial automation efforts delivered many benefits, including reduced costs and greater productivity, those benefits have been largely absorbed and companies today are seeking greater refinement in a new set of benefits. That’s where TOA Technologies comes in.
From automation to management
TOA has taken field service the next logical step from automation to management, which requires greater use of information. The information that TOA leverages comes from collecting copious amounts of time related data and then analyzing it to derive performance metrics. These metrics enable TOA to render accurate predictions for a business focused on dispatching people and equipment to customer sites as well as internal business sites that may require services or deliverables. The result is better customer experience from better knowing when to expect the service call and how long it will take.
TOA has a two-step approach to analyzing and predicting mobile workforce activity. For each company it has helped since its founding in 2003, TOA uses predictive analytics based individual profile patterns to optimize each unique workforce.
First, TOA collects time-based measurements about each member of a mobile workforce and the way that each completes different types of work. Then, TOA’s ETAdirect software uses this learned information to make predictions about when appointments will occur and how long they will take. Because these predictions are based on actual, real-time information, organizations can effectively communicate appointment information to customers, with the confidence the field workforce will deliver on the service promise. Because the system learns based on information unique to the individual and organization, it takes five days, on average, to learn the patterns of a given workforce in a way that generates results. , on average, to learn the patten waesu yding next steps with John/Yuvalconsumption)of day Thursday. ability However, the solution still achieves incredible efficiencies and results on day one, because TOA can input previously collected industry data (from its expertise in the industry) or apply basic patterns or knowledge provided by the organization. Therefore, the technology can optimize schedules for a good starting point even before it collects data from the field.
The customer’s time is money
The focus on time and efficiency is more important now than ever before because in today’s more competitive markets, customer satisfaction, and not cost, has become a focal point. Customers have choices in who they do business with and if a product fails to measure up a customer might go elsewhere. But in today’s more competitive marketplace the service experience goes under the same microscope and if a service experience fails to measure up it can also be reason for customer attrition. TOA’s secret sauce is its understanding that a focus on time efficient processes results in both cost containment for the vendor and greater reliability and a better customer experience.
So, by capturing data that enables the system to accurately predict how long it takes to perform a repair or move a truck from one customer location to another at a particular time of day, a service vendor can more accurately predict a service window and detect any slippage in the schedule. Predictive scheduling enables the vendor to promise a smaller service window for the customer, freeing up the customer’s time in the process. This is one reason that TOA has been selected by several cable providers, telcos and pay TV providers including Dish Network, Cablevision, Cox Communications and Virgin Media.
TOA Technologies has more than ninety enterprise class customers and more than 66,000 users of its solutions. At any time there are more than seventy thousand mobile assets actively tracked by the system. ETAworkforce, TOA’s integration suite, which went live on the AppExchange in mid-2012, brings together Salesforce CRM and field service management powered by TOA. ETAworkforce also enables customer service representatives (CSRs) in the call center to book appointments the way a traveler might book a flight, as well as create work orders — all within the Salesforce ecosystem. This was impossible before ETAworkforce was available.
ETAdirect predicts how the unpredictable events that occur daily in any field service delivery will impact the rest of the day, thus empowering the organization to see and manage problems before they occur. According to Vice President Of Channels and Alliances, Jeff Wartgow, “TOA’s ETAdirect solution manages 75 million appointments per year. Also, “Any industry that requires having a service person arrive on site, and on time,” is a candidate for the TOA system including furniture delivery, retail and home healthcare to name a few.
Tracking time is a great way to improve customer satisfaction and save money. Because TOA tracks data rigorously, it’s easy to come up with its own performance averages a representative sample includes:
- Reduction of service wait window to one hour
- 30 percent improvement in on-time performance and 98 percent customer satisfaction rate
- 70 percent reduction in “Where’s My Service/Delivery?” calls to the call center
- 47 percent increase in the rate of jobs completed each day
- 40 percent decrease in miles driven per appointment
- 20 percent reduction in time to complete jobs
- 20 percent reduction in unnecessary visits to a customer home
- 75 percent reduction in overtime
As long as there are reasons to bring products and services to customers there will be a need to manage costs and expectations to deliver optimal customer service experiences. TOA Technologies has shown an understanding of what’s critically important in servicing customers at their locations. It’s understanding what happens in the field, down to the individual employee, and using that information to predict when things will happen and how long they will take. Managing time has enabled TOA to elevate the discussion from service automation to real service management.
The AppExchange is undoubtedly a significant portion of what makes salesforce.com unique. Pre-integrated solutions dramatically reduce the cost to the customer to extend the capabilities of Salesforce and the fact that it has already gone through growing pains means it will take other providers years to mimic its capability and impact.
~Narinder Singh, co-founder and CSO, Appirio
Nine Years ago I wrote The New Garage. It was a thought piece that tried to peer into the future of Software as a Service (SaaS) and make some predictions from a business and economics perspective. Salesforce had recently started promoting its platform in the making (then called S-Force) and encouraging third parties to develop applications that complemented and extended the basic Salesforce CRM solution so there was reason to speculate about the impact this new approach would have.
But also, the history of business and industry is a long story of better, faster and cheaper and at that moment all three were all in the driver’s seat. Back office software had already demonstrated many business process improvements leveraging automation and the Internet, and I thought it was time to turn some of these techniques on software. SaaS was a good start but it had further to go, I thought.
Early impacts lead to tipping point
I saw S-Force as a tool and an economic system that could revolutionize software, making it possible to create and deploy it in a just in time fashion. At that time you almost had to be nuts to think that. After all, even after the initial success of SaaS, software was still something you installed and slaved over for a long time before you got it right, not something you could just plug in like an appliance. And integration? Don’t ask! What was I thinking?
“We’re at a tipping point,” that’s what I was thinking.
The cold, hard truth of the matter was that you couldn’t expect to sell software subscriptions for a few bucks a month and encumber yourself with all the overhead of a traditional software company because you’d go broke. Something had to give. Either software would forever be something you sculpted from a block of marble or you had to figure out how to stamp out perfect copies that plugged in and just ran — no excuses.
My bet was that we could do the stamping but it wasn’t based on any hard economic data. It was based only the conviction that commoditization would have to continue and that something like what’s now the AppExchange would be the result. In truth, there were predecessors to the AppExchange. Steve Jobs opened an online store at NeXT in 1997 and six years later in 2003 Apple set iTunes in motion and today you can buy tens of thousands of apps at the AppStore for all your Apple devices.
All in a name
It’s hardly remembered today but the AppStore (name and domain) were originally Salesforce properties and that CEO, Marc Benioff, gave them to Apple. According to a 2008 Benioff interview with Bloomberg, Jobs had met with Benioff and his team in 2003 to offer advice on the Salesforce online store and the gift was a gesture of gratitude by Benioff to Jobs.
A store for enterprises
But those were consumer sites; there had never been an online application store for enterprise grade software until salesforce.com launched the AppExchange in January 2006. This year marks the seventh anniversary for AppExchange an odd anniversary to celebrate perhaps, but a good chance to look at the AppExchange to see how well it is living up to the original vision. Here are some of my observations.
- The partners have built a long list of useful solutions including HR systems, field service, accounting systems, sales tools and marketing automation products. These are systems that enrich the Salesforce experience but at the same time represent application areas where Salesforce has decided not to concentrate its resources. Where Salesforce has stepped aside, the partners have stepped in.
- The AppExchange created the opportunity for a very long tail of credible business solutions. In the more than 1,700 applications you can find on the AppExchange, there is a host of small applications that just make life easier for the Salesforce customer; some are strategic and many are exceptional. They are applications that integrate with other applications, distribute incredibly fine-grained information and automate processes in unlikely ways that just happen to work well for populations of users who need those exact solutions.
- The AppExchange is a good place to do business for companies of any size, especially for SMB’s. Many AppExchange vendors tell me that they make their living building and servicing their apps to the point that the permutations of Salesforce CRM with partner applications is, if not infinite, then at least very large (roughly 1700! or 1700 factorial). I had predicted this in The New Garage but I had envisioned problems with revenue splits and single sign-on. Both challenges have been dealt with.
- Perhaps most importantly, enterprises go to the AppExchange to find and buy solutions. One of the constant refrains I hear from AppExchange CEOs is that enterprise buyers find them on the AppExchange and buy solutions through it.
So here we are after seven years and the AppExchange is by all measures a big success. This blog is the first in a short series of posts that report on the AppExchange’s growth and the success of some of its many partners from small boutiques to large businesses. This series pays particular attention to ten AppExchange partners that distinguished themselves last year including in no particular order: TaskRay, TOA Technologies, Contactually, The TAS Group, Tango Card, Zapier, Apttus, KnowWho, nCino and KXEN.