Marc BenioffMarc Benioff is a tech geek, a communications expert, an inspirational speaker and a philanthropist. Arguably, the real secret to his success is his ability to communicate. Anyone who’s been to Dreamforce will know exactly what I mean.

He’s a natural showman and kicked off last year’s Dreamforce with a traditional Hawaiian blessing, along with a surprise performance from the Beach Boys. To continue the Hawaiian theme, he’s been known to wear Hawaiian shirts to work and sign his emails with, ‘aloha’.

As with any charismatic CEO, there are plenty of stories about his lifestyle. Unlike most CEOs however, the tales don’t center on luxury living. He’s well-known for being an advocate for charity, urging all big companies to give back to society.

As a CRM provider, Marc’s perspective on customer service is unique; he has to look after his customers just as much as he has to help other businesses look after theirs.

There’s definitely a skill to keeping people happy – and Marc has it. Here are three lessons to learn from the customer service expert:

1. Create one-to-one relationships

With the wealth of customer data available, Marc believes there’s no reason why businesses can’t build good relationships with their customers.

He often starts one of his presentations with his favorite tale about a hotel. The EMEA Chairman at Salesforce, Dr Steve Garnett spoke about this in more detail. But basically, the story goes that if you arrived at hotel, which you’d stayed at before; wouldn’t it be nice if the receptionist booked you into your favorite room and reserved a table at your favorite restaurant?

With today’s technology, personalizing customer experiences like this really isn’t that hard, but the value of creating meaningful one-to-one relationships with your customers is huge.

Marc Benioff told attendees at last years’ Dreamforce:

Our vision is to build the platform that allows you to connect. We know that if you engage deeply, interact, remember those customers and create one-to-one relationships with them, you will have incredible success

2. Trust is everything

Basically, there’s no use promising what you can’t deliver. Marc Benioff may be a marketing machine promoting his company and his own image with as much enthusiasm as possible, but he knows to never cross the line into empty hype.

Marcus Nelson, former Director of Social Media at Saleforce spoke to Forbes about working there. He said:

Customers will never trust you if you don’t deliver on the promises you make – and Marc knows that trust is too valuable to ever squander on empty hype… Show customers a working product. It may not work now, and it may not ship soon, but never promise something if it’s not even been built yet.

It’s always better to promise less and deliver more. Then, if you don’t deliver more than you promised, the only person you’re letting down is yourself.

3. The future is social

Social media has been heralded as ‘the future’ for many years now, and Benioff agrees.

He claims, “The social revolution is a trust revolution,” because treating your customers like you treat your friends can only improve the customer relationship.

He sees customer service as one big conversation happening across the web, which businesses need to embrace:

“The future of communicating with customers rests in engaging with them through every possible channel: phone, email, chat, web, and social networks. Customers are discussing a company's products and brand in real time. Companies need to join the conversation," said Benioff.

The advance of social media goes beyond customer service at a practical level and looks set to transform the way software is developed. Benioff claimed at the 2012 Dreamforce conference that the Facebook user experience will soon become the model for all software:

All software is going to look like Facebook… Everybody will have to rewrite to have a feed-based platform with ‘likes’. It's a logical extension for us to allow customers to log into heterogeneous interfaces using a Salesforce ID. We are not going to be the only ones. We have to be one of them, and being first is all the better.

What have you learnt from Marc Benioff? Share your thoughts on the customer service guru in the comments section below.

Image credit: TechCrunch (Marc Benioff speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt, 2013)