TruGreen, the largest US lawn care company, is committed to providing everything that customers need to “live life outside.” That’s why TruGreen recently embarked on an all-up digital transformation—driving toward a culture of continuous innovation for its customers and associates. Teaming up with Microsoft, the company used Microsoft Power Automate to develop a new AI-enabled virtual agent bot combined with Microsoft Power Apps and Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, and TruGreen augmented its customer self-service mobile app with AI-driven image recognition. The bot understands and listens to customer needs, classifies and informs customers of insects and weeds in lawns, and responds to customers’ requests. By using Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, Power Apps, and Customer Insights, TruGreen can provide even more proactive and predictive services to its customers, which frees employees to spend more time on higher value tasks and complex customer issue resolution.
In developing his strategy, Taha started with business strategic objectives and worked backward to define the key technology enablers he would need:
Taha then defined the many initiatives these five key enablers would need to support, including digital customer engagement, an enterprise data hub, predictive analytics, a customer journey hub, field service management, marketing management analytics, AI, and a half-dozen or so others.
After he had a fully envisioned digital ecosystem, Taha, along with other members of the company’s C-suite, visited the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center in Redmond for a deeper dive into what Microsoft technology could bring to the table. “Our visit to Microsoft really revealed all the tremendous advances in Dynamics 365 in the last five or six years,” says Taha.
At that point, Taha requested a Microsoft Catalyst engagement—an onsite, multiday envisioning and planning session focused on how Microsoft could help TruGreen in its digital transformation. As part of that engagement, after listening to what Taha wanted to achieve, the Catalyst team proposed a number of prototypes and worked side by side with Taha’s team to build them based on Microsoft Power Apps, Microsoft Power Virtual Agents, Computer Vision (AI-driven image recognition), and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights.
The first prototype, created in two days without a single line of code, used Power Virtual Agents to deliver an AI-driven bot to serve as a virtual agent that could handle routine customer inquiries and take action based on customer intent. In building the bot, the team used Microsoft Power Automate to orchestrate and automate the required interactions with various back-end systems and used out-of-the-box Microsoft Power Platform connectors to tie into those systems. TruGreen developers were able to start building their own workflows after just a few days of instruction by the Microsoft team, thanks to the intuitive, visual, low-code design environment in Power Automate.
“Our introduction to Power Virtual Agents was the high point of our Microsoft Catalyst engagement—I didn’t realize Microsoft offered that functionality,” says Taha. “I knew that we had to tie together the entire customer journey, and up until then, I was concerned about the time, costs, and complexity involved. But seeing Power Virtual Agents in action, I had one of those ‘Aha!’ moments. It put all those concerns to rest. It also impressed me that a member of my own team could start orchestrating new scenarios in just a few days, connect those scenarios to our production systems, and have it all work flawlessly.”
For systems that didn’t have an API, UI flows—a robotic process automation (RPA) feature within Power Automate—provided a way to mimic the onscreen actions that an associate would take. “Obviously, we can’t upgrade our entire IT infrastructure at once,” says Taha. “With UI flows, we can integrate into existing systems to start delivering compelling new capabilities immediately and then modernize those systems at our own pace.”
The second prototype showed TruGreen how it could easily use Microsoft AI Builder to augment its mobile app with AI to deliver new customer value. Built using Power Apps, the enhanced mobile app makes it easy for a customer to instantly learn about weeds or insects they don’t recognize. Customers capture an image using their smartphone, and the TruGreen app then sends the image to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, where Computer Vision (part of Azure Cognitive Services) identifies the specific weed or insect. The app then retrieves an appropriate article from TruGreen’s knowledge base and presents it to the customer, along with the option to schedule a visit by a certified TruGreen technician.
Today, TruGreen is moving “full speed ahead” with these capabilities from Microsoft, starting with plans to incorporate both the virtual agent bot and the image recognition functionality into its website and mobile app by the end of 2019. In parallel, Taha’s team is defining requirements for additional use cases leveraging the breadth of capabilities within Dynamics 365.
Taha’s ultimate vision for Power Automate, which encompasses several of the other technology initiatives on his roadmap, calls for it to play a pivotal role in the end-to-end customer journey.
Taha has similar scenarios planned for customer retention, in which its AI-enabled virtual agent handles customer concerns about perceived value or quality. For all the scenarios, Taha plans to draw upon both the capabilities provided by Dynamics 365 itself and by Microsoft cloud services as a whole, especially when it comes to data, advanced analytics, and AI. “If the functionality we need later isn’t part of Dynamics 365, then we’ll likely find it somewhere else in the Microsoft cloud ecosystem—prebuilt and ready to use,” he says.