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Steve GarnettThis post is the second part of Tquila’s interview with Dr. Steve Garnett, EMEA Chairman at salesforce.com, who attended one of the company’s All Hands events, before offering his insights on customer service, cloud computing, social media and more… (Read part one here).

What do you think will happen to companies who don’t put their customers first and who don’t embrace these new technologies?

There’s no CEO who says “I’m not going to put my customers first”, but talk is cheap! It’s easy to have customer centric straplines. We probably all have experience of a company that we hate dealing with, because the customer experience is so bad. This has always been the case, but today what’s different is the power of social media to flag the companies that tell a good story but fail to deliver. Finally, through technology the customers now have a voice and they are shouting loud and clear! Relatively recently, if you didn’t like a company’s service or product you wrote to them, sent them an email, called them to say you were unhappy or simply chose to take your business elsewhere. You had no mechanism to promote your dissatisfaction with friends, friends of friends or colleagues. After all life is too short to continuously complain. The company in question could have this negativity building up but it was fairly passive and it would take a long time for it to surface into a real problem.

Today, of course, it’s very different. If you get a bad customer experience, you tweet it, it gets retweeted, it goes on to your Facebook page and thousands of connections see it. Within literally minutes you can have a customer revolt because it resonates with others who have had similar poor experiences. Of course the positive is also true when a customer experiences a great product or service and uses social media to communicate that. This turns into a tremendous sales and marketing opportunity for the company to amplify that positivity but only if they have the technologies available to listen, engage and promote it.

At Salesforce events, Marc Benioff often begins his intervention invoking the ideal arrival at a hotel, where the receptionist has booked a table at his favourite restaurant, they know his favourite room because they know he stayed there before… Do you think this scenario will ever be a reality?

Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened to you? The reason people laugh when Marc tells the audience is that he’s probably one of the best customers of the hotels he stays in and instead of doing everything they can to find out his tastes and preferences they just throw a bunch of keys at him and ask for his credit card. How hard is it to track your top customers with today’s technology? How hard is it to know he’s arriving, what he likes and dislikes. How hard is it to ask him and record it in Salesforce for future use! This attitude leaves it open for your top customers to churn.

Every survey I have seen in the 25 years I’ve spent in CRM suggests that customers churn not because of the product (of course I’m not talking about companies that have crummy products), or price. They churn because of poor service. Nothing is more damaging than treating a loyal customer as a new prospect because you don’t have the right information available to handle their interaction down whichever channel they choose to communicate with you.

Are the days of traditional software numbered?

Yes. It might be a sizeable number of days but it’s happening! The shift away from traditional software is huge for a number of reasons. Our industry is a continuum, moving from complexity to simplicity. It’s like the second law of thermodynamics that says that entropy always increases! In our industry simplicity always increases. This is what’s been called the consumerisation of IT. As consumers, we don’t expect complexity. When you use you mobile device, you expect to download an app that works and is intuitive. You don’t expect to get a manual or go on a training course to figure it out. That expectation is now driving the business world. So the trends you see in the consumer world – cloud, mobile, social, gaming – is rapidly coming into the business world.

Obviously there are certain additional requirements for business, like disaster recovery, security, data residency issues, that has to be addressed but nevertheless the trend is the same. Therefore, it seems bizarre to me why some businesses still upgrade an on-premise application, spending millions of dollars upgrading that software to another version without business benefit and disappointing the end user expectations at the same time.

Of course you had no choice 10 years ago, but what the consumer web has taught us is that you can support millions of people on the same software infrastructure without the pain of upgrades. What Google, Amazon, eBay and many others did in the consumer world, salesforce.com learnt from and applied to the business world. We stood on the shoulders of giants and said “Why can’t the business world have applications that are intuitive in the cloud, social and run on your mobile device?” The final comment I would make is that I don’t see any innovation for on-premise software. None at all! Zero! No new companies that are starting today are building software, putting it on a CD and taking it to prospective customers to install on their computers. That world for start-ups is dead.

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About Tquila

NewVoiceMedia partner Tquila is the fastest growing Salesforce Platinum Partner, and the only consultancy across Europe to focus solely on cloud solutions powered by the Salesforce platform. The company helps global customers get the most from their investment in Salesforce, and realise a fast time-to-value.

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