February 27, 2013Doug Hadden
Doug Hadden, VP Products
Salesforce.com presented a vision for the “customer company” yesterday “live from New York”. A muddled vision. To be fair, far more articulate about customer centricity than what we hear from traditional ERP vendors. I tweeted throughout the event and curated some tweets.
FreeBalance is a Salesforce user, particularly for customer support as a mini multi-national corporation. We have developed processes designed to improve customer-centricity. And, Salesforce tools like dashboards and Chatter are used with commercial and open source tools to enable our global business. We’re also a technology company so have some unique insight here.
The Customer Company Journey
Salesforce explicitly links social technology with being a customer company. Technology, as we have found, enables a customer company – but is not necessary to become a customer company. Leaders in customer companies recognize that the notion of “customer intimacy” as a business model has been around for some time. The technology implications of this trend has been well-known since the 90’s as one of the disciplines of market leadership. from Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema. The trend towards customers having more leverage in the power relationship with businesses was articulated by Regis McKenna and Patricia Seybold . Not to mention how Geoffrey Moore identified the stages of the technology adoption cycle where customer-centricity was critical to success. And, the work of Peppers and Rogers at the time.
I’m saying that Salesforce is joining the party late. That’s because social technology, as Salesforce rightly point out, is changing the nature of how companies communicate with customers.
The important point is that using social technology does not a customer company make.
Organizations need to build a strategy of customer centricity (or citizen centricity). Processes of engagement and measurement needs to change. And, organizations need to constantly adapt processes to do what’s best for the customer.
Salesforce Customer Company Vision – the good, bad and ugly
Salesforce has got some compelling tools to enable customer companies. Yet, these tools can be also used by non-customer companies to generate revenue and profitability with little or no regard for the customer. As you will see below, I became increasingly distressed during the webcast about the examples used by Salesforce that seemed to include concepts such as:
- Prioritizing services to customers who have more social media impact than those who do not
- Leveraging technology like big data and predictive analytics to sell more with little regard to customer privacy
- Use of social technology as if it was broadcast – using it as sales and damage control channel rather than a customer engagement channel
- Manage marketing campaigns for shampoo or television programs without any concern of whether these products are valuable for customers
- Facilitate getting out the vote for an election rather than for continuous policy engagement with citizens
The best event example was the way in which a small jewellery business customizes products for customers. And, the notion of having relatively (for Salesforce) small events for customer engagement is a good customer-centric strategy. After all, Enterprise Software companies tend to be mute about new products and services until the annual user conference/shindig/media/hype event.
It has been my experience that Salesforce is far more open in customer engagement than traditional Enterprise Software companies. I’ve had engagement at a Cloudforce event and had a feature request for Chatter picked up via twitter. And, tweets with the #SalesforceLIVE hash tag were shown on the webcast event site whether positive or negative. As I’ve said before, social is was social does and Salesforce uses social channels for engagement.
Advice for Salesforce
- Better vision articulation to separate the technology from the strategy
- Advice on the why and how of customer centricity
- Speakers at events who have researched this business model
- Examples of customer engagement rather than customer manipulation at events
- Use of customer surveys and feedback live
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