Salesforce has added one of its key sales tools — a configure, price, quote application it acquired in last year's Steelbrick acquisition — to its service cloud. Not its sales cloud — Salesforce was quick to add CPQ to the sales cloud some 90 days after the Steelbrick acquisition closed.

To repeat: Salesforce CPQ is now a part of Service Cloud Lightning.

At first glance the addition of CPQ to the Service Cloud makes sense. CRM, after all, is the integration of sales, marketing and service with each element doing its part to give a company that much ballyhooed 360 degree view of the customer.

But then you think about it a little longer. Yes, a service department would need access and integration into sales. But why a CPQ function?

Not surprisingly, Salesforce can explain.

Why CPQ in Sales?

For starters, there is that basic CRM recipe of integrated sales, service and marketing. Service and sales should have the same access to similar functionality along with marketing, which tends to be the most siloed of the three.

But that "should" is turning into a "absolutely must have" as sales and service functions become ever more intertwined.

Increasingly service representatives are becoming more empowered to address customers’ problems and there are many scenarios that require the ability to reprice or reconfigure an order, Will Spendlove, senior director of Product Marketing for Salesforce CPQ, told CMSWire.

He gives the example of a city that buys several new motorcycles for its police force. When the delivery is made the city discovers there is a problem with some of the bikes. The city calls the sales rep, who creates a case ticket and sends it to the service department along with an urgent plea to fix the problem stat for this major customer.

The service department figures out the problem and then re-issues the client a CPQ, which includes a discount for its troubles -- all without sending it back to sales.

Doing it the old-school way, that is, sending the contract back and forth between service and sales, creates a drag on productivity and probably irks the client too, Spendlove says.

Some Tweaks for the Service Model

Salesforce has added some new features for its service cloud CPQ, based on other scenarios likely to pop up in the service department. CPQ with Order Management, for example, makes it possible to split one quote into multiple orders. The service department is where the shipping requests and other logistics are managed -- and with the new order management feature it is much easier to accommodate different ship dates within the same order, Spendlove explains.

Another new feature is CPQ Product Bundle Upgrades, which allows service reps to add new products, service upgrades or bundles to an existing order.

Salesforce CPQ Powered by AI?

To be sure, the payoff for this functionality makes intuitive sense but IT buyers like to see some hard numbers backing that intuition. To that end, Salesforce is currently sponsoring a third-party study on how much revenues a CPQ function in the service department can deliver and/or what costs can be saved, Spendlove says.

The real revenue or cost-savings goldmine, one suspects, will be the next iteration of CPQ -- or at least what one assumes will be the next iteration: Salesforce CPQ powered by artificial intelligence. AI, of course, is expected to be Salesforce's big reveal at Dreamforce this month, but Spendlove was resolute in sticking to the topic at hand.

But even without Spendlove's input an artificially intelligent CPQ engine is easy to imagine. Most obviously, more steps would be shaved off that sales-service dynamic to make the process even faster. One might expect to see the pricing element as well undergo dramatic change.

Remember the motorcycle example? A discount was given to the customer for its troubles. A CPQ with AI could nail down to the penny just how much of a discount needs be offered to keep that customer happy. Heck, an AI-powered CPQ could determine the original price for the order based on what it guesses the city is willing to pay.

In this telling of the story, Salesforce glossed over pricing and how it is determined. The next time around, it could have plenty to say.