For years, customers were often enslaved by on-premise applications that were very difficult to keep standing due to changing infrastructure, patch fixes and release upgrades. Then many of these customers were promised a seamless migration from on-premise to the cloud, only to have their hopes dashed when several of the same problems occurred, along with a few new ones. The process became more about customer survival than customer success.
Over the last two decades, the cloud emerged as an alternative to on-premise solutions and customer survival, liberating companies from acquiring and managing infrastructure, updating applications and creating data models. For Salesforce, customer success became the guiding principle at the heart of the company's culture. Moreover, with the subscription-based business model, cloud vendors have an important incentive to ensure that customers are successful—they can more easily take their data and business to another cloud provider if they are dissatisfied with the service.
Over the last 18 years, Salesforce has led a path to the future in the CRM industry with cloud, social, mobile, Internet of Things and now artificial intelligence technologies. Today, Salesforce serves more than 150,000 companies of all sizes and across all industries, most who have moved from another CRM vendor to achieve customer success. But, it takes far more than technology to deliver customer success. Salesforce is built on a set of core elements that has led to its success:
- Customer Success
Too many vendors place their own bottom line in front of their customer's success, leaving customers to find success on their own. Salesforce is, and always has been, a customer success-driven company. It's not about building technology for technology sake, it's about delivering innovative technology that enables companies to get closer to their customers. It's about more than 26,000 Salesforce employees focusing on customers achieving value.
Groupe Atlantic—a major HVAC player in Europe—is a new customer about to begin its trail to success. "As a platform dedicated to customer success, Salesforce will give us the opportunity to improve each customer interaction and enrich the relationships we have with them over the long term," says Kim Vernier, Head of CRM and Business Efficiency at Within the Groupe Atlantic. "By implementing a solution that integrates the entire customer lifecycle, we will be able to increase customer satisfaction and accelerate our development. We are convinced that the new Lightning experience will be a vector of efficiency and will encourage user acceptance."
Trust is the cornerstone of customer success. Nothing is more important than the trusted relationships Salesforce has with its customers. Salesforce's technology delivers high levels of trust for critical factors such as performance, availability, and security. Salesforce's point of view is that companies must be more transparent than ever with their customers about their information and they must do more to protect users’ information. This enables Salesforce customers to deliver the same level trust to their customers.
U.S. Bank—the fifth-largest commercial bank in the United States—is using Salesforce to deliver trusted, intelligent and personalized experiences for its banking customers. “At U.S. Bank, we’re committed to cultivating trust-based, meaningful relationships with the customers we serve,” said Kate Quinn, vice chairman and chief administrative officer at U.S. Bank.
Innovation should not be measured based on vendor promises. Innovation should be measured by a proven track record of introducing and delivering relevant innovations to customers time and time again. Vendors who tend to follow often offer messaging about being innovative but cannot back it up with customers achieving business results. For example, some vendors talk about artificial intelligence, but few are actually delivering solutions that are seamlessly integrated into the business workflow. With its Einstein set of AI-powered services, Salesforce has infused AI across its CRM applications to make every customer interaction smarter and more productive without the need for an army of data scientists.
Fitting into a vendor's pre-defined box or undertaking expensive application development is a false choice. Salesforce was founded on the principle “Make the Complex, Simple, and Make the Impossible, Possible”. In this Age of the Customer, data and connections are rich and complex and require companies to rethink how they deliver customer apps. And it’s not just about the apps themselves--companies must deliver unmatched customer experiences along with every app, and they must do so in release cycles of weeks, not months.
The Salesforce Platform offers unique advantages for building CRM applications:
- Metadata Model
- No Code to Low Code to Code Development Tools
At its core, the Salesforce Platform has an innovative metadata model (something to this day I find many vendors struggling to get right). Simply put, who wants to deal with low-level database calls and interactions if there is no need to do so? Metadata minimizes complexity and enables benefits such as seamless upgrades and quick time to market. Interestingly, there were some vendors I found who would offer upgrade compatibility tools to validate changes before a customer upgraded. With seamless, automatic upgrades three times a year that don't break custom code, Salesforce customers have had no need for these kind of tools.
From a development tools perspective, Salesforce customers have a complete spectrum of programming capabilities, from no-code to low-code to code, allowing them to have more flexibility and capability in building apps and business workflows. And, with Trailhead, our leading-edge learning environment, customers can explore the possibilities of how technology can improve their business and careers. It gets new customers up to speed faster and enables anyone to learn more and do more—for free.
We live in an always-on, multi-device world. Salesforce's “mobile-first” strategy puts us in a unique position to handle both employee-facing and customer-facing mobile applications via a single, integrated platform. Because Salesforce was built from the ground up as a platform, every app has the flexibility and agility needed to keep pace with the business --something customers place premium value on.
Customers understand that one vendor can't possibly deliver all the capabilities required to achieve customer success. Salesforce also understood this and developed a diverse ecosystem of developers, partners and the AppExchange, the leading enterprise app marketplace. If anyone in the world has a good idea they can build it on Salesforce, and offer it through the AppExchange and give customers immediate access to new functionality.
But it isn't easy to build an ecosystem—others have found out the hard way. Without cloud platform stability, tools and a focus on a specific application domain, such as CRM, it becomes an almost impossible task. I wrote about Salesforce's ecosystem and the impact of it has had on the customer success. Ecosystems are not created equally—it becomes quickly obvious whether an ecosystem and partner community have breath of capabilities to further customer success. Salesforce's growing ecosystem of customers and partners will contribute 1.9 million jobs and $389 billion in GDP worldwide by 2020, according to IDC. And, for every dollar Salesforce makes the company’s ecosystem will gain $4.14.
Businesses should not just serve shareholders, but all stakeholders—customers, employees, partners, the communities we live in and the environment. That means giving back to the community by donating employee time, adopting schools and helping train young people for the jobs of tomorrow. It also means supporting initiatives around equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunity, equality in education and environmental sustainability.
Salesforce's recent research report, “The Impact of Equality and Values Driven Business” found that companies who invest in equality and lead with values—such as diversity programs and equal pay—have a competitive advantage over those who do not. The findings indicated that employees are more productive and engaged when their workplace is committed to equality and other values that promote social good. Also, customers want to work with companies that have social responsibility as part of their corporate values.
Many customers are moving from the plodding path of customer survival to an illuminated path in the cloud leading to customer success. Salesforce, guided by its core values and in partnership with its community of customers, developers and partners, will continue to pave the way for those on the journey to customer success.