San Francisco-based Salesforce announced improvements to the building-block functionality of its Service Cloud with today's introduction of Service Cloud Lightning Snap-ins.

These software developer kits (SDK) for mobile and web offer solutions for such features as Cases, Knowledge, Live Chat, SOS and Tap-to-Call.

Users that want to add, say, Live Chat service to a website, or Tap-to-Call to an e-commerce site, can drop in the code snippet or SDK and — according to the company — more or less immediately deploy the functionality.

"It is extremely easy to deploy, which was one of our main focuses with Snap-in, in case you couldn’t tell from the name," Eric Bensley, director of product marketing at Salesforce, told CMSWire.

"They come out of the box with great UIs for customers."

Pushing the Limits of Customer Service

The CRM giant also introduced an SOS Snap-in for two-way video chat. Salesforce debuted the SOS tool in 2014 for its Service Cloud. 

SOS is a button embedded in an app's interface, and as the name suggests, customers hit it for assistance. A live agent responds to the customer, usually through live video assistance if available on the device.

This particular Snap-in lets companies drop in an enhancement to SOS that allows customers to aim their two-way camera at the product they need help with so the rep can see exactly what the customer is talking about, while still continuing the call.

It's another front, or mini-front, in the customer service wars.

Increasingly, companies are differentiating themselves with service, Bensley said. They approach service not only with customer-friendly policies but also with — and this is key — unified customer-friendly channels. Industry statistics show that 61 percent of consumers use multiple channels to resolve a single customer service issue. Companies need a platform that supports and integrates these channels. 

To state the obvious, Salesforce hopes to see Lightning become that platform.

From Internal App Builder to Low-code User Tool

To that end Salesforce is moving the three core components of its CRM stack to the Lightning platform. The platform already includes the Sales and Service Clouds, with marketing set to join next month.

It has been an interesting — not to mention speedy — evolution of the Lightning platform, which started out as a low-code, drag-and-drop internal app builder for employees. This current iteration of Lightning — Salesforce had released an earlier version which it reworked — debuted at Dreamforce 2015.

This iteration is mostly based on open source, specifically the Aura Framework, which can be found on GitHub. Aura, briefly, is for developing dynamic web apps for mobile and desktop devices. 

Salesforce made a smart decision by building Lightning on Aura as it allows developers to build apps completely independent of the data in Salesforce. Or, as Salesforce explained at the time, "Lightning allows business users to create user experiences without code. Using prebuilt, reusable building blocks users can create their own interaction experiences."

It quickly realized that end users might want to create their own interaction experiences too. From that realization it was a short path to the current iteration. Tweaks to the features made them outward facing and a tad bit more consumer friendly.

“We had been getting feedback from the customer about wanting a simplified way to customize applications with these features," Bensley said. "So we gave them the Lightning platform."

Title image Eutah Mizushima