Technology Meets Customer Experience at Dreamforce

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Last week, I attended the salesforce.com® user conference Dreamforce. The show has become bigger than just a user conference – it’s become a destination for sales, service, and marketing practitioners to connect with technology experts and vendors about all things relating to the customer. This year’s event was no different.

The theme of the show was “The Internet of Customers.” Everything is becoming connected, from toothbrushes and cameras to basketballs and scales. But behind every device and technology platform is a customer. Salesforce.com Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff explained in his keynote that the entire market needs to reassess how it does things to evolve into what he calls “customer companies.” New tools are enabling one-to-one customer relationships that deliver the most value. Companies just have to be willing to take those steps. “It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in,” Benioff said. “We all need to become customer companies.” And the role technology plays has never been more important in achieving this goal. 

The event featured a number of executives and experts from the top of the business world. Though they represented very different industries, they all shared a common passion for engaging with customers in new ways and enabling a great customer experience while optimizing processes and business practices. Some highlights from the event include:

  • “The new fabric of connections is being created worldwide,” said futurist Peter Schwartz. “The power of the individual is everywhere.” Business must decide how it will act in this new reality.
  • As people and things become increasingly connected, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a technology company, said Meg Whitman, chief executive officer of HP.  “IT is becoming more important every single day,” she said, adding that even marketing is becoming a technology function.
  • A key strategy for beauty company L’Oreal is to engage with the “connected consumer,” according to Chief Marketing Officer Marc Speichart. The company listens to consumers more than ever before in different channels, and is moving from a push communications model to a pull model, making sure it can talk with customers in multiple channels at the same time.
  • Service channels now include machines: Canon and Philips have incorporated support buttons directly onto their cameras and medical devices, and others have done the same. However, the buttons need an aligned ecosystem of technology, strategy, process, and people behind the scenes to optimize the support experience for customers.
  • “Speed is the new currency of business,” noted Jereon Tas, chief information officer of Philips.
  • When it comes to technology development, time to market isn’t as important as “time to customer,” said Erik Hellberg, president of telecommunications provider TeliaSonera.
  • Comcast Senior Vice President of Consumer Marketing Denice Hasty said the company is aiming for a no-wait customer service experience, experimenting with new ideas like embedding support tools into the television remote control. However, the future experience might soon become a zero-wait service experience, as companies leverage crowdsourcing, peer support, and other collaborative tools within their service environments.
  • At Yahoo, employees co-create its quarterly presentation to the Board of Directors by sharing and voting on highlights and lowlights of the quarter, said Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer. So much innovation and talent lives within an organization, she said, and it’s a good leader’s job to remove the barriers to great work.

There was palpable enthusiasm among everyone there about the opportunity that exists to leverage technology, strategy, and operations to connect with customers in new and valuable ways. In particular, mobile was featured as the channel of choice for both business users and consumers. We’re excited to see the mobile discussion shift from a standalone app conversation to one that focuses on a connected enterprise platform.

We presented a session with luxury travel company Inspirato about how to bring the personal concierge concept to fruition with the right integration of data, technical tools, and insight to seamlessly deliver service excellence and optimized experiences across platforms. Mobile is one part of the bigger customer experience picture, and we’re proud to have shared the story with attendees. Stay tuned for more details on the Inspirato story soon.

With so much to take in at this year’s Dreamforce, it can be difficult to figure out how to apply these new insights to your own companies. I think Keith Weed, chief marketing and communication officer at Unilever, summed it up best with his quote: “Get to the future first, ahead of your competitors, and welcome your customers as they arrive.”  We at TTEC are ready to help you get there.