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Far from home, with no network and filled with doubt, Lorna turned to Trailhead to find her way. 

If you’d said to me 15 years ago that I’d end up in Australia working in the tech industry and leading a Women in Tech group, I would have laughed. And yet here I am! It’s nice to know I can still surprise myself.

At university I was interested in humanities and the arts, and had originally thought I might be a teacher. But some work experience in a classroom put paid to that idea - it definitely wasn’t for me. I ended up doing a Masters in Medieval History which, I was to discover, was a very competitive niche when it came to finding a job. 

By that stage, however, I’d already had my first foray into tech. To my surprise, I found it suited me pretty well. A friend at university had roped a bunch of us into working with her on the student IT helpdesk, dealing with all the usual troubleshooting enquiries. And something just clicked for me. It was a diverse group with all kinds of interests and lots to connect us. A camaraderie developed and, before I knew it, I felt that I belonged. 
 

“Who do I think I am - a medieval history major in IT?”  

While a career in academia seemed like the obvious choice after completing my postgraduate studies, I found myself taking up an offer to work as a trainer in the university’s IT department. 

Sure, medieval history to IT might seem an unlikely change, but my studies would come in handy in all kinds of unexpected ways. As a historian you must be very methodical, structured and inquisitive. You have to be prepared to be challenged on your conclusions and be very sure about the steps you made to arrive at them. It turns out, the same skills apply to working in IT – the training stood me in good stead. 

This didn't stop me from experiencing impostor syndrome which, until I found ways to manage it, would plague me across my early career in IT: are my qualifications good enough? I don’t have the same background as others - can I really do this? Am I cut out for IT? Who do I think I am - a medieval history major in IT?

But I kept moving forward, and a cold call from Ireland’s biggest IT recruiter was my first introduction to Salesforce. The call was made by the IT Director as an internal demonstration of the power of their Salesforce CRM, so you might say that Salesforce found me.

 


 

In the deep end  

Up until then – my first role as a Salesforce admin – I’d been managing an Access database and hadn’t heard of Salesforce. I was thrown completely in the deep end in my new role. It was multifaceted and multi-hatted in a way that I would later realise was typical of a Salesforce Admin role. Salesforce administrator is, I’ve come to see, an essential position: part investigator, part challenger, part process owner with a bit of dev and BA thrown in too. And it gave me a whole new set of resources with which to combat that impostor syndrome by validating the skills I had and giving definition to them, while providing opportunities for learning and the means for developing a network.
 

"I don’t have the same background as others - can I really do this? Am I cut out for IT?"  

With Salesforce in my pocket, so to speak, I felt much more confident about travelling to Australia. The original plan was to stay for one year but, four years on, Sydney is rapidly becoming home.

But I’m not going to lie. I can appreciate the challenges of those early months now, but at the time it was incredibly tough. I had no existing network or community, and the difference in time zones meant making a phone call home was tricky. I was even out of whack with all my old connections from home on Twitter! It felt very isolating, especially for a natural introvert like me. 
 



Finding a place  

Fortunately I was able to get a few short-term Salesforce jobs and the connections I made in those have remained my strongest. And Trailhead came to my rescue by providing access to groups and events. I was always welcomed with real warmth at the user group events I ventured to but I gravitated to the Women in IT breakfasts, with their more intimate settings. I just had to get over my own nerves and shyness, and those lingering doubts about whether I belonged in the tech world. 

 

"There are still significant barriers to women in tech and the perception that tech is a male industry remains one of them."  

While experience has shown me that impostor syndrome can affect anyone in any industry, the perception that tech is a male industry certainly doesn’t help when it comes to women finding their confidence in the IT sector. There are still significant barriers to women in tech and that perception remains one of them. It’s certainly one that our Women in Tech group will be fighting to correct and it’s wonderful to see the many changes that are happening. 

I’m excited to now be leading a group which, for example, consistently uses an inclusive range of pronouns to discuss scenarios or examples. It might seem like a small thing but it can make a big difference, and I’ve sometimes wondered how differently I might have felt in my journey if I’d heard people talking more about women and technology.
 

"I’m excited to be in a position to contribute positively to change in the industry and to build a team of people who live those changes."  

Trailhead continues to be a wonderful resource for me - fun, practical, informative and empowering. I’m reminded every day there is someone out there in the same position I was in, reaching out, looking for direction. And because there is a real sense of ‘paying it forward’ within the Trailhead community, there is always someone there to help.

That sense of contributing to the community was also the reason I took on the role of co-leader of the Women in Tech group with Maddison Deans, which is relaunching on 31 July after a hiatus of almost a year. When Simon Gascoigne asked me to step up I immediately said yes, because I had missed the events running – they left a huge gap for me and, no doubt, for others. 

I’m delighted to be taking the group over with Maddi to help provide that safe space for other women to be active members of the community. Co-leading the Women in Tech group and also in my new role leading a Salesforce team, I’m excited to be in a position to contribute positively to change in the industry and to build a team of people who live those changes and are passionate about the Salesforce ecosystem. 

To anyone who finds themselves a long way from home, without a network and feeling doubtful about their own abilities, I encourage you to reach out to the Trailhead community. Baby steps are fine - not all of us are up to diving straight in - but if you can put in the effort then trust me, the benefits are huge. 

Find your community and build the skills to overcome any lingering impostor syndrome – join us at Down Under Dreaming.

 

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It’s been 50 years since those first monumental steps Neil Armstrong took on the moon - still one of the greatest accomplishments for humankind of all time. To celebrate this innovative achievement and how this effort is still paving the way for new leaps and bounds, we’ve imagined what it would be like if we sent Astro to the moon sometime in the future. 

Curious? Well here’s what Astro's space prep journal might look like if we did...

My hands trembled. A bead of sweat dripped down my forehead. My tail twitched in anticipation as I stepped into the cockpit.

This was it. After months of preparation, I was going to blaze a trail that no member of the Salesforce Ohana has ever blazed before. I was going to the moon.

But let’s back up a bit.

If you’re wondering how I got to this point, I wouldn’t blame you. I can barely believe it myself. It all started with Salesforce coming to me with a plan to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. They wanted to send me to space to follow in Neil Armstrong’s iconic footsteps. I’ve always heard a career with Salesforce could take me anywhere!

Of course I accepted the offer. I couldn’t wait to get into the training program they told me I needed to get "space ready".

After all, it couldn’t have been rocket science. Right?
 

Week 1  

The team told me that before I even thought about putting on a space suit, I needed to get in shape. Didn’t they see me walking the floor at the Sydney Salesforce World Tour? I put in some serious kms.
 



Week 2  

Just in case I wasn’t out of breath enough from the week before, next up was increasing my lung capacity for the harsh environment of space. They put me on the same breathing control training program that our Dreamforce speakers go through.
 



Week 3  

My head was spinning from all this new information - but I didn’t know the half of it. Because it was time for G-Force training.
 



Week 4  

I’ve worked on launches before but this was something else. The big day was finally here, and I had never been more nervous. Would this all work out? Was this plan too crazy?

 

All of a sudden, my shuttle breached the atmosphere. And then all my worries just floated away. Now I just had to man the controls and pilot my ship (Trailblazer I) on the right course.
 



The moon  

This was it. One small step for Salesforce. One giant leap for mankind. I closed my eyes, and stepped out of my lander. And there I was.
 



I planted my Salesforce flag and stood for a moment, looking back at the Earth.

There better be a good Trailhead Badge for this.

There you have it - if you’ve ever been curious about what Astro would do if sent to space (and honestly, who hasn’t been curious about that?), we hope this satisfied your curiosity!

If you’re keen to blaze your own innovation trail, there’s no need to hop on a space shuttle. You can visit Salesforce Trailhead to accelerate your skills and inspire your future path.

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Fintech banks understand digitalisation and operate in a microservices structure. Teams of designers, coders, developers and techies are integrated with product and service people, customer-focused people and business people. They are empowered to solve user and customer problems, debating and developing in real-time.

And they are prepared for the future.

But as I prepare to speak at Financial Services Basecamp, I’ve been considering the impact of 'digital transformation fatigue' on the events audience, and the overuse of the word 'disruption'. For many ‘disruption’ has been repeated so often that it’s lost meaning, and both are causing traditional financial services organisations to dismiss changes that are happening in the market now and which require their attention.

Leading indicators point to a definite shift, but the 'frozen middle' – middle management who’ve heard it all before – isn't adapting and proactively preparing.

Those in business operations still can’t align their needs with the people delivering technology in the organisation. The CIO is still sitting outside the business, watching and responding to requests that are prioritised and delivered in sequence, sometimes over a very long time. The business people are frustrated that the technology people don’t deliver exactly what’s needed, and argue about reprioritisation.

Banks that don’t yet truly understand digitalisation – the need for it, the reasons behind that and the optimal ways to achieve it – still operate on 20th century technology development models. They take years, involve hundreds or even thousands of developers, and are eventually delivered by a large consulting firm and external technology team – but without solving the core challenges or working correctly for the bank.

This immovability is not all down to a lack of belief in whether change is coming or whether it will impact business – according to an MIT Sloan Survey, 90% of CEOs across all industries do believe digital transformation is likely to impact their industry. But only 15% of those CEOs say they are actually executing a digital strategy.

In the UK, mobile-only bank Monzo is seen as a minor competitor to the traditional players – it doesn’t have market share as consumers’ ‘main bank’. What it does have – alongside the ability to operate as a fintech – is the discretionary spending data of millions of customers. 

Australia is now on the cusp of open banking and new entrants such as Volt are set to challenge banks in a similar fashion – not yet as a ‘main bank’, but as a convenient and data-rich complement. Those who are winning see the open data economy not as compliance task but as an opportunity to get a more rounded awareness of their customers – a true 360-degree view.

And the competitors aren't all local. Alipay, Tencent, Facebook-owned Libra, Square and more will challenge the traditional bricks-and-mortar banks, starting by processing payments, building brand awareness and trust, and diversifying and scaling from there. 

The people and organisations preparing for the future of financial services prioritise data and customers. And employee experience and customer experience are closely linked, so that means empowering customer-focused and user-focused teams to do the same – to use data to gain actionable insights into customers, and to deliver on those insights. 
 



The future of financial services is data  

Data was the new oil long ago. But this is even more true now as AI becomes central to operations across functions – the core of AI is good data for customer intelligence, not just in marketing but for all interactions including sales and service. Without clean, enterprise-wide data structures, financial institutions won’t be able to compete with those fintechs that have great customer data intimacy.

Many financial institutions are using data and AI purely for regulation and risk management. These are very important, but the future will be using customer data in the way Amazon, Google and Alibaba do. Can you compete with those internet giants? If you cannot, and if you do not have the data structure to compete with them, then you have a problem – because those giants that haven’t already launched financial services could very easily.

This is the essence of why data management, assets, leverage and intelligence are so core to banking. This is why some believe blockchains could replace banks, as they offer automated and distributed ledgers with no intermediary involved – this is unlikely in the short term, as some form of trusted oversight is needed, but the possibility of this and the likelihood of data-enabled customer-centric organisations offering financial services is why banks need to be digital at their core, and why they need to act as technology giants, not just financial giants.
 

Customers are central  

A key factor of the fintechs and digital banks I talk to that are digitalising well is that the customer is their primary focus. Not the shareholder, the investor, the quarterly bonus, the dividend yield or the cost-income ratio – just the customer.

I’ve found it quite rare to hear a passion for retail customers, their experiences and services – the bulk of retail customers are considered relatively unimportant. But recently, a digital bank’s CFO was recounting to me how important the customer is. It’s a rare claim for a CFO, so I questioned her reasons; she told me that shareholder value is reliant entirely on customer value.

If you are customer and user-experience focused, then the profits flow and the shareholders get their return. – she pointed to a direct correlation between customer value using digital services and shareholder value that flows in return. Customers that use the bank’s services digitally more than half of the time are twice as profitable as other customers, and twice as satisfied.

I see this play out in the digital banks I am talking with – the relentless pursuit of the best digital CX creates a team that is customer-obsessed and empowered to deliver that CX.

To hear Chris Skinner speak about how companies are unifying financial services and driving unprecedented customer loyalty with intelligent, connected and personalised experiences, register for Financial Services Basecamp – in Melbourne on 25 July.

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The challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are well known to marketers by now. But the solutions to those challenges are still in the works. AI, trust and collaboration are three key ingredients without which CX will fail. How marketers use them is where the magic is. 

It’s no secret to marketers that the huge shift in customer expectations we have experienced with the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has dramatically changed the way we do business. 

The demand for a bespoke, personalised experience was once associated only with high-value, high-consideration products and services such as cars, appliances, insurance policies and luxury travel.  Now, consumers demand exceptional experiences across the board, from cars to cosmetics, from luxury goods to laptops. Today’s digital natives don’t just want to buy what they want, when they want, how they want. They want the experience of buying to be outstanding - not just the product or service itself. Indeed, 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as what it sells

Together with these new customer expectations has come an explosion in the number of channels across which they operate and an avalanche of data associated with those channels. As a result, marketers are faced with a fresh array of challenges:

  • How can companies connect with their customers across these dozens of channels? Our latest State of Marketing research found that just 28% of marketers are currently satisfied with their ability to engage customers across channels at scale.

  • How can companies unify and activate that data in meaningful ways? That same research found that only 47% of marketers are satisfied that they have a unified view of customer data sources.

  • How can the use of that data to provide personalised experience be reconciled with the customer demand for privacy? 

    The State Of Marketing Report - YouTube

Personalisation and privacy: A golden couple enabled by AI  

While the use of AI by marketers to address these challenges is still nascent, AI is set to play a crucial role in empowering organisations to aggregate and analyse data, and meet both personalisation and privacy expectations of customers. Marketers’ adoption of AI has already grown by 44% since 2017 and those marketers are experimenting with AI across a wide array of uses including predictive journeys, automated social and messenger app interactions, and real-time next-best offers. Fundamentally, AI allows marketers to ask smarter questions, which in turn means they can deliver even better CX.

AI gives marketers unprecedented ability to gather data, use it to construct a unified view of the customer, and create a value exchange whereby companies that employ that data to create truly personalised and omni-channel experiences are rewarded with customer trust. Indeed, when trust is maintained at the core of CX and tailored engagement is delivered, the tension between privacy and personalisation disappears. Seventy-eight per cent of customers are more likely to trust companies with personal information if it’s used to fully personalise their experience.

Personalisation then, combined with data guardianship that empowers the customers to feel in control of their own information, has become a key competitive advantage, with high performers 7.1x more likely to be completely satisfied with their ability to balance personalisation with privacy.
 

CX is everyone’s job: How KPIs in common overcome a silo mentality  

CMOs and their teams are uniquely placed to unlock the right insights into the way customer expectations and behaviours are changing. One of the most important insights they have arrived at is that the high-performing teams are the ones that work together across departments and functions. Customers, after all, see one company, not disparate departments. 

Those departments need to be unified under a common growth doctrine and share common KPIs in order for collaborative efforts to flourish. With a shared framework of what success looks like, functions that have traditionally never crossed paths can work together to achieve that vision of success. Sixty-five per cent of high-performers say individuals and teams are more aligned than ever before, while 93% of high performers have integrated marketing and advertising technology stacks versus 69% of underperformers.
 

Data unification: Holy grail or set of cups?  

Data unification has something of holy grail status when it comes to tackling the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

The mission to achieve data unification in order to achieve a 360-degree view of the customer is one in which AI is playing an especially important role, particularly through cloud-based applications.

However, rather than picturing data unification as some kind of single warehouse that stores every bit of information about a customer under one roof, it’s more useful – and more accurate – to understand it as an infrastructure from which marketers can pull insights using AI-based tools. Aggregated or federated data may live across any number of platforms. What unlocks its potential for actionable insights is AI’s ability to seamlessly access, analyse and connect the data from those different platforms.
 

Trust: Customers aren’t the only ones who like it  

High-performing teams are built on the kind of trust that ensures the psychological safety needed for that team to take risks, to sometimes fail, and to challenge the status quo. With a unified vision of success, they are empowered to work with new solutions and collaborate with other teams, and thrive on creating outstanding CX. 

CMOs who foster this kind of environment will see innovation flourish and a commitment to CX inform every decision. 

Growth now hinges on companies changing how they engage with customers and build their brands. By championing the voice of the customer at all touchpoints, and by not just being custodians of a brand but developing it in line with the customers’ expectations, CMOs now have the opportunity to be the most forward-looking and growth-focused members of their organisations. 

Get more insights from the State of Marketing Report

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Open banking will allow consumers to have more access to and control over their financial data. But with trust more important and more elusive than ever, data is a resource consumers are cautious about handing over. Indeed, 73% of customers say trust in companies matters more than it did a year ago and 46% of customers feel they’ve lost control over their own data.

The challenge for financial service providers will be to demonstrate to consumers that their data will be used responsibly and to transform CX with the right technologies. Only then will they be able to secure their future in the new open data ecosystem. 

And it’s no small challenge. Given banks are currently being hammered by remediation efforts as part of the Royal Commission fallout, it’s hard for them to look beyond providing the bare minimum to comply with the requirements of the Consumer Data Right (CDR). Those that can move forward strategically and rapidly with a fresh approach to CX and the right tech on board will therefore be at a significant competitive advantage. 
 

Restoring consumer trust step-by-micro-step  

Banks are starting to build trust again through micro moments of help and attention. For example, push notifications issued to customers when they have upcoming payments are a powerful way to show the provider has their customers’ best interests front and centre. Deliver them via your customer’s preferred digital channel and the message is much more compelling.

The focus becomes less about extracting fees, and more about proactively helping the customer to manage their finances. This kind of tailored, relevant and timely information goes a long way to gaining the trust of today’s data-cautious consumers, with 79% of customers willing to share data in exchange for personalised engagement. 

And by moving away from the hard sell, quick, product campaigns the industry is known for, banks can take a bigger-picture view of their customers. Communication becomes about being proactively helpful with no strings attached, rather than every moment of contact being used as an opportunity to sell. Strategically, this long-term, relationship-building, CX-focused approach will pay off. 
 



Small business will get big attention  

When it comes to working with SMBs, the value exchange on offer is going to play an important role in developing those strong customer relationships. Small businesses, for example, are particularly well placed to benefit from opening banking. Traditionally, access to credit has been a major hurdle for them, but the open banking ecosystem will see fintechs offering new levels of data analysis to enable competitive pricing on finance. 

Small businesses will also be offered – and start to expect – fresh solutions to their other common business needs as banks start to position themselves as partners, not just bankers. 

Indeed, ‘partnership’ is set to be a key concept in open banking – not just between providers and their customers, but across the whole ecosystem of fintechs, finservs, banks and third-party providers, and particularly between those specialising in analytics and UX, and those with the deep balance sheets and customer reach of established banks.
 

New technologies with a human touch  

AI and other new technologies – especially those that integrate and analyse data from sources across the ecosystem – will play a vital role in open banking. Indeed, consumers expect businesses to use them to create better CX. However, bankers need to be augmented by accessible intelligence, not just artificial intelligence. 

The industry must be careful not to undermine its human responses with digital solutions. Using technology to complement and empower those working in financial services will enable the laser focus on consistent and connected CX that today’s consumers demand. 

The ethical dilemmas that finservs have always faced will only become more complex with the introduction of new technologies like AI, along with increased access to data. When you measure and make decisions purely on data, you run the risk of reinforcing biases that fall beneath customer and community expectations. It’s imperative that new technologies are developed in such a way to embrace diversity and avoid biased exclusions. 

Out of the recent rubble of eroded trust in traditional banking, an ecosystem that fosters innovation, partnership, competition and – above all – improved CX is growing. Its challenges are not for the faint-hearted but its opportunities and rewards are many for those ready to embrace the paradigm shift of open banking. 

To find out more about how open banking will impact the way Australian banks interact with customers, join us for Financial Service Basecamp in Melbourne on 25 July.

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Vitiana Tubuka is a busy mother of six in Fiji, ranging in age from four to 25, and grandmother of one. She manages a busy household – her three youngest children and husband live with her, and her youngest daughter has a congenital disability that leaves her unable to talk, walk or sit up on her own.

Before her first loan from Good Return partner South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) Fiji, Tubuka was trying to run the household on her husband’s income as a labourer at the nearby healthcare centre. 

"It was very hard,” she says. “Only my husband was working [and] his income was not enough to cover the family.” 

A gentle and soft-spoken woman, Tubuka is now on her fourth loan with SPBD Fiji – she finds the time to run a small convenience store, or canteen, from her home and has recently started selling copra, a type of dried coconut used in cosmetics and oils.

The difference her business has made to her life is clear. 

“I have been sharing with the centre that if you run your business well it is a great help for your family,” Tubuka, who has also been the Centre Chief (elected leader) of her SPBD Fiji centre with for the past three years, says. 

Because of her business, Tubuka has been able to send her son to medical school in Suva where he is specialising in Public Health, and this year she sent her daughter to teachers’ college in Lautoka. 

She can now afford to buy her younger children shoes and good school uniforms, and send them to sports tournaments in the main town.

“Now, with my fourth loan, I started another two businesses – drying copra, and selling fuel for boats, brush cutters and generators,” Tubuka says. 

There are benefits for the community too – the village had no canteen before, and there are only two shops nearby, not enough to serve the villagers’ needs. Now instead of a two-hour ride to town on a bus that comes twice a day, they can get their necessities from Tubuka’s store.

Tubuka has big plans for the future to build on her success and further improve her family’s financial stability. As well as extending her house and expanding her canteen into a big shop, she wants to buy a solar panel for her house and maybe a backup generator as well. 

Tubuka’s story is a perfect illustration of the power of financial education coupled with microloans to enable women to start sustainable businesses. 

In this guest post, Good Return’s Head of Fundraising Cathy Sowden shares how Good Return helps to build pathways out of poverty by empowering people to grow their incomes and access responsible finance. 

At Good Return, we work with women like Vitiana Tubuka by leveraging technology, through financial education and, soon, by offering more than just a starter loan.

Microloans tend to range from $200 to $1200. By partnering with local organisations, we've funded more than 10,000 borrowers and trained more than 50,000 people. But we’ve discovered that helping our clients succeed sometimes requires helping them expand a successful business, and making an impact can mean helping them employ more people. 

In order to support this, we’re launching an Impact Investing program, offering larger loans to support growing businesses. We’re also currently testing an app that will help with household financial management as well as financial education.
 



Business is nothing without trust  

None of this would be possible if we were not operating in an environment of trust.

Microloans are not new, but a decade ago the microfinance industry in the Asia-Pacific region learned the hard way what happens when trust evaporates. The industry had its own financial crisis when lenders in southern India, influenced by poor government policy and investors expecting quick returns, pursued aggressive growth targets – oversaturating the market and contributing to the debt stress of overcommitted borrowers. The error was devastating for borrowers and slowed progress of what began as a well-intentioned system.

Problems arise if microlenders try to apply the same rules that exist in developed economies, or focus on growth KPIs rather than on enabling the financially sustainable success of borrowers.

So, we turn the focus onto the customer, ensuring they are well educated in financial matters and building client protection principles into everything we do. By putting the client first, we can begin to build trust. But that’s just the beginning.

The rest is about focusing intently on three Cs – character, capability and credibility. 

Character is about our mission, always putting the client at the centre of everything we do. Capability comes from having the right technology and partners. In this part of our mission, Salesforce provides vital expertise. Credibility comes from regular delivery of what we promise.
 

Ethics enabled by tech  

We train and support our partners to adopt good practice – considering responsible design of a financial services product, how to avoid the client becoming over-indebted, best-practice complaints handling procedures, gender and diversity, and working appropriately and sensitively with vulnerable groups.

These practices are reflected, protected and strengthened through our technology, which also allows us to make user data sacrosanct. Our technology brings a consistency of intent and behaviour, but still allows for the flexibility that our work requires. 

For example, we’re currently making a difference in Cambodia, Fiji, Laos, Nepal, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands. While our intent across each region is the same, we can’t just take a model from one of those regions and parachute it into another. In some of the countries we operate in, women can’t actually own property. We customise our content for each culture – trust only comes through a mutual appreciation and understanding of the cultures of all involved.

When we do our job well in an environment of trust it can have an enormously positive effect.

To illustrate this, let’s go back to Vitiana Tubuka in Fiji. She opened her store with a microloan. Her business grew and she gained confidence, and she’s been able to change her family’s fortune and her village immensely.

Through her work with our partner SPBD Fiji with us, she’s been able to teach other women about financial management and business. 

And it all began with one woman, one idea and a loan.

Find out more about how Good Return builds trust with customers and investors at Salesforce Financial Services Basecamp.

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With four and a half masters degrees under her belt, political refugee Sau-Yeng Dixon shares how her personal and professional life combined for her to become a problem-solving consultant at Salesforce - and how she takes diversity by the reins to create an inclusive future. 
 

Can you tell us about your role at Salesforce?   

I'm a business architect, part of transformation services in the Customer Success Group. I work together with my customers and business stakeholders to translate their strategies into transformation execution plans. I guide their decision-making processes and how they think about transforming their operating or business models with the Salesforce platform. 

Most days I actually work with my customers at their sites and with our internal team to provide solutions to complex transformation problems. Once a week, I come back to the office where I'm able to connect with my colleagues and other parts of the CSG.

It's a journey of partnership that sometimes becomes friendship as well, with emotional ups and downs. It's so important to remind ourselves constantly of what values drive us and what our final vision is.  And then all the rest is really about technicality. Salesforce is an amazingly adaptable, flexible platform that can make magic come to life. If you have clarity of where you want to go, and you have clarity on how you want to get there and the impact you want to have, then you can mould Salesforce to fast track that transformation.
 



I focus on how to serve my clients with better products and services, and how to streamline their internal processes by providing the right tools so that they have more insights on their customers. Great implementation is so important to the impact Salesforce products can have on our customers’ business, meaning better scoring for them in customer satisfaction, growth in their revenue and increased employee satisfaction. There are a number of metrics like this we look at to measure our success – to focus on always helping our customers the right way.
 

What qualities does a Salesforce employee need to succeed?   

Passion - because that's going to drive your sense of urgency to make things happen. I think that's really important in a world that is changing so quickly. And also authenticity – it’s so important to us that everyone in Salesforce can bring their authentic selves to work every day, and this isn’t just because it’s the right way to work together, it also helps us collaborate better and provide authentic interactions for our customers. 
 



Bringing my authentic self and my passions to work each day is a conscious decision. I’ve focused on unlearning a lot of the expectations that I thought society had of me. Whenever I feel uneasy about saying or doing something, I know I'm not being authentic. 
 

“In a world where we are in constant movement, we must evolve with or faster than the movement.”  

I have to find the courage to know this is happening and to say, "Well, that's really who I am. That's really how I feel. And I think I should voice that". 

The more I do it, the easier it becomes. It's a little bit like meditation where you have to practice a lot to the point that it becomes natural. And I've got to admit I'm not at that point yet, but certainly I'm working on it every day.

We're actively working to improve the world we live and work in. We know that achieving our collective vision is everyones’ responsibility. Working towards that is a privilege. It also links back to the 1:1:1 model, the value of giving back. We have the tools and channels available to make this happen. 
 



Tell us about your career that led you to Salesforce.   

I've been in consulting for 15 years, so I have always had a passion for transformation - or as I say, evolution. In a world where we are in constant movement, we must evolve with or faster than the movement. When I joined Salesforce three years ago, it was because I was convinced that innovation could only be led by companies that had vision. The vision that Salesforce has is using business influence to make this world a better place. 

I study to expand my understanding of the world, so I have four masters degrees and I’m halfway through my fifth. Consulting was the best way for me to use all of the skills I am passionate about that I gained with my degrees - problem solving, storytelling and bringing people together towards a shared vision. It’s the perfect dream job for me.
 

“Being an equality evangelist is about creating a community that is able to be inclusive of all types of diversity.”    Can you tell us about your favourite volunteering experience? 
 

My family (my husband and two children) and I volunteered last year with Salesforce by building a house for families in need in the rural area of Siem Reap, Cambodia - my parents’ country. It really created connections and I learnt so much from the people at the same time as contributing to making their lives better. We loved it so much we’ve decided to go back every year. 

I'm also leading the Equality Council for APAC CSG to advance the conversation around diversity and inclusion. For International Women's Day this year, we thought that instead of just having a day, we should have a conversation that lasts for the whole month because one day is not going to do justice. We put together a program that went throughout March with keynotes panels and fundraising activities. Overall, $4400 will be donated to Y Gap for their program Y Her that supports women social entrepreneurs.
 



What does being an equality evangelist mean to you?   

Being an equality evangelist is about embracing who you are and being proud of who you are. My mum and dad fled from Cambodia during the civil war by walking through the jungle to Vietnam, where I was born, so equality is really a personal resolution for me, in the sense that I was a political refugee. We moved to France when I was 8 months old, and my focus throughout my childhood was fitting in and just to be the same as everyone else. It took me 20 years to understand that it was okay to be me. 

I think everybody can be an equality evangelist by fighting their biases constantly, so I want to create a platform where people feel safe to talk about that. It’s also about giving a voice to people who don't necessarily feel like they have one. 

Being an equality evangelist is about creating a community that is able to be inclusive of all types of diversity. And certainly I want that for my children and for the community that I live in. The way I do this is by making sure I hold that safe space for everybody. And making sure that diversity is not just embraced, but celebrated. A lot of studies are actually showing that diversity is the source of innovation which is where my professional skills come in.
 



What’s next?   

We have held six women's circles in Melbourne and Sydney and would like the program to continue. We are talking about putting together a policy for womens’ health. I’d like to see that come to life this year. 

We also have an idea to use World Tour as a platform to create the biggest diversity and inclusion conversation we have ever created in APAC. There’s a big group of volunteers who raised their hands to make this happen, with the support of Salesforce’s Office of Equality as well as the local team. So that's really exciting. And I can't wait to see this come to life.
 

How does V2MOM enable and empower you to achieve your goals?   

V2MOM stands for vision, values, methods, obstacles and measures – it guides every action we take to ensure we’re always powering towards our goals That's how V2MOM helps us. It's really a north star and it's a map.

I personally ask how we can solve inequality, and my personal strategy has always been to create a conversation. This is a really important part of the plan. It creates the right type of calls to action and outcomes. Gender diversity calls to me because women are 50% of the population – our Women's Network is  the largest Ohana group at Salesforce.
 

How do you think that Salesforce has impacted you personally?  

It has done so many things. I think the first thing it has done is restored a form of faith that the corporate world can actually use its influence and power for good rather than for greed. And I’d been looking for a place to really belong for years before I found the Equality Council –that's what Salesforce has given to me. I feel like I belong which is very fulfilling, it gives me a platform to keep exploring and pushing boundaries, which makes me happy.
 

What do you do to relax outside work?  

I enjoy going into nature and creative activities. At the moment, I spend a lot of time designing mala necklaces, which are meditation necklaces made with gemstones. I love the creative and meditative aspect of the process. 

Little things bring me joy, like spending an afternoon with my kids just playing cards and then having a nice dinner with my friends, or seeing a movie that really inspires me. 

Even just having a nice hot coffee and chat with a friend, it brings me joy.

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Is your customer service meeting expectations? The answer to that question is often revealed only when things are in a negative place and your customers are unhappy. It pays then, to audit your customer’s satisfaction with their service experience before things reach that point. 

Sometimes, while stuck in traffic or during a particularly busy morning on the road, you might find yourself coming up behind a corporate vehicle with a bumper sticker that reads, “HOW’S MY DRIVING?”.

For organisations that want to ensure their fleets aren’t creating a bad impression of the business, it's one way of showing they’re continually evaluating their own performance. And asking the question – ‘how are we doing?’ is a good first step to showing you do care about how potential customers think of your business. But it takes more than asking the general public to figure out if the customer service you’re providing is meeting expectations.

Companies usually have a pretty clear indication when their customer service is really poor, of course. When it becomes nearly impossible to keep up with a barrage of criticism on social media, sales start to plummet or they’re increasingly having to offer ‘make-goods’, senior leaders are usually quick to see how they can improve the way questions and complaints are handled. By the time you reach that point, though, it might already be too late to hang on to valuable relationships or prevent your brand’s reputation from permanent damage.

Instead, the most successful companies have learned to stop, take stock and make changes where necessary based on the volume and variety of customer service issues coming through. They take a good, hard look in the rear-view mirror before continuing on, because they might have missed important markers on their journey.

Determining if your customer service is good enough can involve a mixture of formal methods and anecdotal indicators that can be discussed in team meetings. Here are five to consider:
 

1. Work out what’s ‘good enough’    

There are plenty of customer service metrics to choose from, and a lot of it will come down to what’s common across your industry, the data you can most readily capture and what captures factors that most directly impact business success.

Some of the most popular metrics include Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES). Even once you’ve settled on one or more of these, though, it’s probably not realistic to think your firm will reach 100% on any of them. 

Determine what good looks like and what great looks like, based on factors such as revenue per customer, customer retention and customer churn.
 

2. Consider a variety of effective feedback loops  

Most companies have used some kind of survey to gauge the quality of their customer service at one point or another. This can work if you have a solid email database or a convenient point in the customer journey where buyers will be willing to complete a questionnaire.

In other cases, though, you’ll want to offer simple online forms on your website to gather feedback on your customer service experience, or a hashtag they can use on social media channels. Also think about dedicated phone lines and email addresses, even a physical mailing address – we’re living in an omni-channel world and 40% of customers won’t do business with a company if they can’t use their preferred channels.
 



3. Pay attention to organic feedback  

Even as you find the right metrics and set up channels to get their opinion, there will be customers who share their experiences of their own accord – good as well as bad. 

It might be a comment to a sales rep the next time they approach a customer about a new product. It might be something said about a company in a public forum, whether on social media or onstage at an industry event. And yes, there are still people in the world who take the time to send email messages or snail mail when they’ve been particularly pleased (or displeased) about the customer service they’ve encountered.

Pay special attention to this unprompted feedback because, much like marketers look at “aided and unaided” awareness of a brand, it shows what’s happening organically and may draw attention to the areas in most need of attention. Or, if the customer service is good enough to attract unprompted feedback, celebration.
 

4. Test the efficacy of self-service tools  

A company might develop a solid owner’s manual for a product, or even create a library of documentation and other content online to help their customers help themselves. If most of that goes unused, however, it’s a pretty obvious commentary on how well those resources have been developed or marketed.

Self-service is simply another customer service channel. Whether as simple as an online community where customers can brainstorm answers with their peers, or as sophisticated as a chatbot, usage will show how well they trust the firm to empower them with do-it-yourself capabilities. If self-service tools don’t meet the ‘good enough’ test, it’s going to put more strain on your other customer service resources as well as annoying the 68% of customers who would rather use self-service channels for simple questions or issues.
 

5. Make sure you’re capturing referrals  

If you’re working in a B2B environment, case studies and testimonials are valuable business development resources. If it’s like pulling teeth to get customers to take part, however, the service experience is probably among the reasons. Take a quick look at the number of times you’ve asked for case studies and testimonials and your acceptance rate versus your rejections, and you’ll be able to measure this effectively.

Those in B2C environments can do something similar with referrals. Much like B2B buyers, a willingness - or even eagerness - to encourage friends and family to use the same company is a healthy sign of strong service. This can be captured through simple enquiries about how new customers first heard about you, or by including a question about whether they’d recommend you following the sale of a product or service.

As a final note, consider how technology will make it even easier to assess the quality of customer service. Now that artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities have come to service tools, for example, organisations are able to be more proactive to give customers the help they need.

Find the latest customer service insights from ANZ and around the world in our latest State of Service report

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No longer the domain of shadow IT, Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms have become an integral component of the modern enterprise. Indeed, ‘cloud first’ is often the rallying cry of the modern CIO’s bimodal IT strategy. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the huge growth and expanding footprint of the Salesforce portfolio of products and services. However, with great growth comes great responsibility. As with any good enterprise citizen, strict yet flexible governance should be front of mind.

Given security should underpin every decision we make in IT, DevOps might be more accurately called DevSecOps. It is the natural embodiment of good governance as it relates to developing, delivering and operating IT software and services – without a clearly defined governance strategy an effective DevSecOps approach is doomed to fail. However, good governance is lean governance and should never compromise a business's agility or stifle innovation.

But before we can securely develop, deliver and effectively operate a service, we must assess and prioritise it. Consider the brilliantly simple yet powerful IT4IT cloud operating model. This go-to, vendor-neutral framework for managing the business of IT can be split into four service lifecycle phases:

  1. Strategy to portfolio: Align, assess and prioritise portfolio demand

  2. Requirement to deploy: Architect, design and build services

  3. Request to fulfil: Catalog, fulfil and manage service usage, delivery and expectations

  4. Detect to correct: Monitor, measure and proactively manage resolution of incidents and outages
     

While IT4IT is not the subject of this article, it provides a useful example for demonstrating a familiar IT operating model, allowing us to illustrate the IT value chain and frame a broader discussion around delivering successful Salesforce initiatives. Our focus then, will be on managing demand and demonstrating how solid governance and a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility can set an organisation up for success.

Properly managing a pipeline of demand is essential and enables an organisation to effectively address Salesforce programs and projects across multiple business units, dependencies and systems.

Aligning, assessing and prioritising will help in enforcing governance through quality checks, information security, standards and compliance alignment. All while cultivating and fostering a culture of shared responsibility and trust from the outset through collaboration and cooperation. These are key facets for any successful DevSecOps strategy.
 

Managing demand  

We can consider managing demand from two perspectives: the PMO and the  'IT Operating' lens. Though never mutually exclusive, this article will focus on demand management from an IT Operating perspective by exploring the following questions:
 

  • What are the principal stages in aligning, assessing and prioritising Salesforce IT demand? 
  • Why is DevSecOps so important in driving successful outcomes? 
  • What are the key milestones and decision points when assessing demand?
     



Establish a cross-functional team  

Given collaboration is fundamental to success, establishing a cross functional team from the outset is crucial. Typically, business sponsors and senior stakeholders will drive the conversation while project managers, product owners, security, enterprise and application architects, testing, service delivery and change managers will contribute across their specific areas of expertise. 

Importantly, this is not to drive requirements or talk solutions, but to ensure alignment to governance and compliance standards, and formalise the roles and responsibilities of the collaborative team.
 

Strategic alignment  

This is where we align an initiative with a business's overall corporate vision, strategy and goals, and identify the inherent risks in developing and operating it. How does it align with other 'inflight' and pending programs, and how might we define and continuously measure the initiative against KPIs? 

This ensures alignment between IT and the business, as well as better utilisation of available budgets and resources. It also assists in the adoption of new services across the organisation.
 

Business impact and risk assessment  

Next comes an assessment of the underpinning business drivers and technology makeup. Understanding and mitigation of risk is essential. This includes, but is not limited to legal and regulatory compliance, Salesforce org strategy, business continuity, privacy, security, architectural compliance, and social impact.
 

Regulatory compliance  

This involves looking at the regulatory compliance requirements mandated by the organisation and the broader context of its ecosystem and particular geographies. At this point we look at the established repeatable strategies, processes and controls that are in place to ensure we meet and can measure compliance on an ongoing basis.
 

Privacy  

A privacy assessment identifies and records the essential components of any proposed service containing significant amounts of personal information, and establishes how the privacy risks associated with that system can be managed. 
 

Salesforce org strategy  

Consider where this service will be implemented based on a defined Salesforce 'org strategy' using the following levers:

  • Organisational structure and boundaries
  • Shared processes and data access requirements across the organisation
  • Proposed user base - B2B, B2C, B2B2C
  • Agility and autonomy for DevSecOps teams, product owners, business units, domains and divisions
  • Enterprise and third-party integration requirements - are there opportunities to reuse existing technical investment?
  • Data segmentation and regulatory compliance (industry and geographic)
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Potential implications on Salesforce org-wide limits and existing tenant services
     
Business continuity planning  

Organisations must mitigate service availability and data loss through robust data backup and recovery strategies to ensure the business can continue to operate in the event of service downtime. Furthermore, continued monitoring and measurement of service performance is essential to proactively mitigate data loss incidents and breaches.
 

Architectural compliance  

The service must comply with the guiding architectural principles. Often tradeoffs must be made when implementing systems due to time, resource and budget constraints. The following pillars taken as a subset of the AWS Well Architected framework are an excellent template for all modern cloud services:

  • Operational excellence
    • Perform operations as code
    • Annotate documentation
    • Make frequent, small, reversible changes
    • Refine operations procedures frequently
    • Anticipate failure
    • Learn from all operational failures
  • Security
    • Implement a strong identity foundation
    • Enable traceability
    • Apply security at all layers
    • Automate security best practices
    • Protect data in transit and at rest
    • Prepare for security events
  • Reliability
    • Test recovery procedures
    • Automatically recover from failure
    • Manage change in automation
  • Performance efficiency
    • Democratise advanced technologies
    • Experiment more often
       
Shared services / service delivery  

How does the service leverage enterprise-wide shared service infrastructure? Consider the following:

  • Networking and infrastructure
    • Assess the potential network requirements and/or additional infrastructure requirements for our service, firewalls, SSL certificates/compute/storage etc. 
  • Identity federation/authentication
    • How will users access the system and will it be deployed within an identity federation?
    • Are we exposing services to our customers, how will they authenticate?
    • What are the privacy implications for customer identity management?
    • Are we publishing or consuming third-party services? How will they authorise?
  • Reporting and analytics
    • We must ensure that data is collected and mined and can be joined with disparate sources for deeper and richer enterprise-wide analytics.
  • Security incident event management SIEM
    • How do we monitor, report and prevent data loss breaches, and other security-related events?
  • Monitoring and incident support
    • Can we integrate our service into our enterprise-wide monitoring and incident management infrastructure? What constitutes an exceptional condition and how might we proactively remediate or mitigate incidents and issues? Do we have a Salesforce application strategy for application/business process level event monitoring?
  • On-boarding and off-boarding
    • Do we have complex on-boarding and off-boarding processes and will they be impacted by the introduction of the new service?
       
Human impact   

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are increasingly integrated into commodity cloud services, and the more sophisticated and ubiquitous AI becomes, the more impact it will have. Salesforce offers its Einstein service in multiple flavours and its technology is extremely and increasingly versatile and powerful. As such, an assessment of the potential impact of AI becomes an important step in assessing overall demand.

Automated systems making intelligent decisions have major societal, legal and moral implications. Organisations must recognise this and consider unsupervised AI decision making in the context of human interactions and privacy.

Indeed, in time, we may need to broaden the DevSecOps portmanteau to DevSecPsyOps and introduce the requisite roles and disciplines across our service lifecycles. Consider how an intelligent agent interacts with a human, for example – should it have been trained in culturally appropriate interaction so as not to cause offence? 

Consider an HR system making the decision to fire an employee or a recruitment management system assessing suitability for a job application. We’ve already seen examples of biased intelligent candidate screening – these are just a handful of examples that on the surface embrace AI for efficiency gains but may result in unintended consequences.
 

Summary  

Organisations will have differing priorities, assessment strategies and business drivers depending on the size and scope of an initiative. Once approval to proceed has been given, budgets have been allocated and resources are available, an organisation has a much better handle on the size and shape of the delivery. 

Transitioning to the Requirement to Deploy phase can allow the DevSecOps mantras of 'people, process and tools' to truly shine through. The iterative design, development, testing and release of quality software artefacts, where compliance is reinforced through predefined manual and automated assurance gates, can then begin with confidence.

Watch this space – up next we’ll discuss the Request to Fulfil and Detect to Correct phases of the overall service lifecycle, and how the DevSecOps approach ensures a smooth transition to ongoing service management and support.

To learn how Salesforce Architects can help you achieve your vision, download the ‘Transforming Business through Strategic and Technical Guidance’ ebook.

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Customer expectations have never been higher. To rise to the challenge of meeting them, companies must have a comprehensive customer engagement strategy

“Alexa, where’s my stuff?” That’s how easy it is to check the order status of an Amazon purchase — and it’s setting the standard for customer engagement with every company. In fact, a staggering 73% of customers say that an extraordinary experience with one company raises their expectations of others.

So, how can a business be the one that sets the high standard of customer engagement today? To answer that question, we surveyed more than 8000 consumers and business buyers across the globe for the third edition of the State of the Connected Customer report.

Key customer engagement trends that emerged from the research include:

  • Customers’ happiness depends as much on the quality of a company's engagement as the quality of the product or service they're buying.

  • Customers are increasingly open to companies using new technologies to improve their experiences.

  • Personalisation, timeliness and connectivity are the three foundations of exceptional customer engagement.

  • Ethics and trust are key to winning customers’ business and loyalty.

The transformation of customer engagement  

Customer engagement — which we define as how brands connect with customers across all touchpoints and build relationships over time — is in the middle of a revolution. In fact, 54% of customers think companies need to fundamentally transform how they engage.

New tech allows cutting-edge companies to engage with their customers in completely new (and better) ways.

So, what do we know about customers’ expectations now?

  • Customers expect companies to anticipate their needs. That might mean serving up a personalised offer or proactively reaching out to prevent a potential issue that might arise for customers.
  • Customers expect to say where and when. The best companies engage with their customers on the channel or device that the customer prefers, not the one that's most convenient for the company — whether that's online, over the phone, or via a smartphone app or a voice assistant.
  • Customers don’t care about departments. If a customer talks to someone in marketing, they expect a seamless transition to speaking with customer service without having to explain themselves again. They expect the service department to not only know about the conversation, but to use that information to help them better. That means it’s absolutely crucial for companies to build a single, comprehensive view of their customers, shared across all departments.

Of course, as people get familiar with those exceptional new digital customer experiences, they start to expect the same standard from everyone they do business with. And it’s crucial that companies meet and continually raise that standard.

Every time Amazon raises the bar in retail, for example, it also does so for banking, healthcare, hospitality and every other industry.

A local bookshop is no longer competing with other local bookshops. It’s not even just competing with the Book Depository or Amazon. It’s competing with every other experience someone has with a company.

So those who set the CX agenda – marketing, service and sales professionals for the most part – should look to all industries and particularly new industry entrants for inspiration. And the companies that can continually raise the bar are the companies that customers will talk about and recommend.

“Customers have so much power now,” explains Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, EVP of Industries at Salesforce. “In the consumer world of social platforms, every single person has a voice. The rewards of harnessing your most ardent fans are amazing, but customers will also be very vocal when they are displeased. So knowing your customers and understanding their needs has become critical to success, no matter what industry you’re in.”

Our State of the Connected Customer research found that 84% of customers say the experiences provided by a company are as important to them as its products and services. That’s up from 80% in last year’s survey. In other words, the quality of customer experience you can deliver is becoming a powerful leading indicator of your future success.



The link between new technologies and changes in customer engagement  

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has brought a surge of powerful technologies into our lives — like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).

There appears to be a clear link between these technologies and changing customer expectations. An enormous 75% of customers say that they expect companies to use those new technologies to create better experiences for them.

 “75% of customers expect companies to use new technologies to create better experiences.” – State of the Connected Customer Report, Third Edition, Salesforce Research

The adoption of connected devices and smart technologies, both at home and at work, is changing customers’ expectations about how they engage with brands. And given the adoption of smart speakers — to name but one new technology — is growing 40% a year, the scale of the issue for business is clear.

A majority of customers seem pretty excited about how tech can create better experiences – 59% agree AI will revolutionise how they interact with businesses.
 

“62% of customers are open to the use of AI to improve their experiences — up from 59% in 2018.” State of the Connected Customer Report, Third Edition, Salesforce Research  

The rising popularity of voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant is a prime example of how AI is becoming a part of everyday life. The role of voice assistants in the workplace, in particular, is growing, with business buyers outstripping consumers in their expectations of the role of, and preference for, voice assistants – 63% of business buyers expect them to play as big a role in their lives as smartphones, for example, versus 35% of consumers.
 



Connected devices, meanwhile — from smart thermostats to fitness trackers — are nearly everywhere. More than three-quarters of customers (76%) surveyed own at least one such item.

So customers’ own use of technology is altering their expectations irrevocably, but technology is also supercharging businesses’ capacity to meet those expectations.

“Convenience and ease are the pillars for a great engagement and AI can supercharge them all,” said David Clarke, Global Chief Experience Officer, PwC. “If all of a customer’s information just pops up and a smart, adapted script is there for an associate, how much better do you think that employee will serve that customer by spending less time hunting for data and more time building relationships? That’s all possible in large part because of adoption of these technologies and connected devices.”
 



Three key ways to improve customer engagement  

Given all these developments, how can companies improve their customer engagement? The research shows that success lies in delivering experiences that are personalised, real-time and connected. All three are vital to any effective customer engagement strategy.
 

1. Get personal  

Most customers (73%) now expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. Personalisation — already recognised by marketers as having a big impact across the customer journey — is a given. Customers want a tailored experience as they progress from first hearing that a company exists all the way through to deciding to buy from them and beyond. For example, from seeing your ad on the side of a bus all the way through to clicking ‘buy’ on your ecommerce site, followed by concierge-like engagement from customer service.

And the bar is rising fast in terms of what constitutes a ‘personalised’ experience. A jaw-dropping 62% of customers now expect companies to adapt based on their actions and behaviours — they want brands to be that favourite coworker, the one who brings a coffee when they know you’ve been having a tough week.

A company, for example, may move you over to an onboarding campaign once you've become a B2B customer, or simply be informed enough to stop showing you ads for an item you've already purchased.

These kinds of expectations hold true across all generations, but are especially relevant for millennials, Gen Zers, and Gen Xers. Yet only 47% of customers say companies are living up to these expectations, signaling ample room to improve.



2. Get connected  

Nearly 80% of customers expect absolute consistency when interacting across multiple departments. In short, effective engagement also needs to be connected — meaning, for example, that anyone at a company can quickly look up customer information and easily use it to engage them accordingly, without peppering them with questions.

However, companies aren’t living up to these elevated expectations here either, with almost 60% of customers generally perceiving siloed departments rather than a unified business.

Of course, ensuring this level of connectivity can be a tall order – 64% of customers have used multiple devices to start and complete single transactions. Not only that, but the average enterprise uses 900 different applications, only 29% of which are connected.
 



3. Don’t keep them waiting  

Almost three-quarters (71%) of customers now expect companies to communicate with them in real time. The need for instant gratification is affecting the way customers make purchases — nearly six in 10 are now willing to switch to a competitor with quicker and cheaper shipping, for example.

The same ‘taking matters into their own hands’ mindset also extends to customer service: 68% would rather help themselves through self-service for simple issues. In short, people are growing impatient as we become less used to waiting, and companies are being challenged to foster a real-time, two-way dialogue with customers.
 



Build trust to inspire engagement  

Trust is another important factor in understanding the modern customer mindset. Trust reinforces customer engagement — people won’t care about your organisation if they think your interactions with them aren’t based on open, transparent and fair practices. Today, 73% of customers say trust in companies matters more than it did a year ago.

The topic has become even more relevant for companies today because engagement strategies depend on customer data. In other words, to provide the connected experiences that customers expect, companies need to know a lot about their customers’ individual needs, expectations and habits.

Our research found that only a small minority of customers are uncomfortable with relevant personal information being used to enhance their experiences. Most are happy to bargain – data, used transparently, for better experiences. However, the majority (63%) don’t believe companies are transparent about how their data is being used, signaling that many companies aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.
 


Trust can make or break customer engagement and impact a business’s bottom line. Nearly half (48%) of customers have stopped buying from companies because of privacy concerns.
 

Communicate your values to customers  

Seventy-seven per cent of respondents say increased awareness of corporate values, ethics and business practices is changing their expectations as customers. Increasingly, values drive customer engagement. Customers take into account what a company stands for when deciding whether to buy from that business or not. More than half (55%) of customers say they won’t buy from companies that don’t value equality, for example.
 


Customers today expect companies to consider a broader set of stakeholders, going beyond financial shareholders to include their impact on society as a whole. This reflects a general sentiment that business has an important role to play locally (giving back to their communities) and globally (ensuring a better future).

The research shows that 76% of customers think companies are responsible for giving back to the communities where they do business. Even more want to see companies address global issues – 78% think companies are responsible for taking steps to reduce climate change.
 

How to track customer engagement  

Of course, determining your customers’ level of engagement isn’t always easy. Is a customer who visited your website 10 times last week more engaged than one who spent 15 minutes talking to a salesperson in store? Is a new customer who made five recent purchases more engaged than a long-time customer who reliably buys once a year? Do your answers to these questions change if one customer completes an online survey, or recommends your brand to others?

When it comes to measuring customer engagement and the best practices of successful companies, here are some of the high-level findings that additional Salesforce studies have brought to light.
 

For marketers:  

While the ‘right message, right channel, right time’ mantra still applies, it’s a complicated reality to achieve. The average customer crisscrosses many different channels on different devices in different contexts. As a result, engaging in real time is now marketers’ top priority — and their top challenge.

Many now track mobile and social analytics, in addition to general web traffic and digital engagement rates, to better pinpoint how to optimise across media. Forty-three per cent of marketers now also track lifetime customer value — the ultimate measure of whether or not they’re effectively engaging customers and providing the experiences they expect.  

For salespeople:  

Hitting quota will be critical for salespeople moving forward, but how they do it is changing. Instead of focusing on single transactions and net-new customers, the majority of today’s sales teams recognise that there’s a lot of value in growing existing customer relationships. That’s why 58% of sales teams now track customer retention, and an additional 27% plan to do so within two years.
 

For customer service:  

The holy grail of customer satisfaction remains the ultimate goal, and the most-tracked customer service KPI. But more data, coupled with improved capabilities for analysing it, have brought forth more granular measures of engagement. For example, 51% of service teams now track first contact resolution (FCR) rates, and 44% track customer effort scores. Thirty-six per cent even track case deflection — a measure of how many customer issues they’re able to prevent in the first place.

Cross-functional team alignment is also critical to customer engagement measurement success – 87% of high-performing service teams share common goals and metrics with sales teams, and 84% do so with marketing teams.
 

Engaging with the connected customer  

Today’s customers are more powerful than ever. With tailored, contextualised engagement now becoming standard for all industries, customers are more in control of their own experiences.

This trend continues to push companies to rethink how they engage and connect with their customers. By encouraging personalised, real-time and consistent communication throughout the customer experience, businesses can find new ways to engage their customers. At the same time, companies that respect their customers’ data, and use it well to improve their experience, stand a better chance of increasing customer trust and ultimately building loyalty.

To find out more about the expectations driving customer engagement, download the third State of the Connected Customer report, with insights from 8000 customers and business buyers globally.

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