Every interaction you have with your customer becomes a part of how your customer perceives your brand. When they log in to your website and see your “storefront,” that is an integral part of your brand. When they interact with your customer service agents, that is an integral part of the overall brand experience. You want your customers to have not just a positive experience but one that strengthens your brand creates loyalty and translates to high value delivered to the customer.
Service can no longer be the lowly outsourced answering service where customers wait on hold for 60 minutes and never get their issue resolved. Company websites can no longer be a clunky experience where you cannot get answers you are looking for. Opportunities to delight the customer are important moments—opportunities that cannot be missed.
The pace of competition has always been high. Incumbents can be displaced in mere days as consumer switching costs get driven to near zero in many industries. Keeping up with your competition enables you to just survive; innovating beyond your competitors is necessary to thrive and grow.
Salesforce, for many companies, can be a competitive advantage. With foresight and knowledge, Salesforce can be architected to enable your business rather than just serve as a back-office tool. We have worked with many clients who have had the foresight to leverage the platform to scale their business in ways that enable them to crush their competitors—at least temporarily. Efficiency, productivity gains, enhanced customer experiences and data insight allow these organizations to truly out-execute their competition. The Salesforce platform already has the power built in, waiting for you to leverage its capabilities today.
For many clients on the path to innovation, we have a few handy tips that might be a good starting point:
- Learn the basics of Salesforce. It is hard to push innovation without knowing the technology, at least at a high level. Understanding the main process flows and the administrative structure of these systems can help you make informed decisions. Trailheads, the learning management system provided by Salesforce, is an easy-to-digest way to learn. Learn about the suite of clouds available—Salesforce’s products all fit together as part of a cohesive larger strategy, so you can leverage the pieces that make sense for you now.
- Take an assessment of where you are. Most companies only use a small fraction of the capabilities they pay for in their platform. Knowing what you are using and how much more you can do is key to understanding what direction to go. Take an honest assessment, thinking people, process and technology.
- Be inspired. Salesforce probably does the best job of any company in inspiring innovation. Just look at their annual Dreamforce conference—it is full of case studies featuring customers innovating on the platform as well as new product launches. Many of these sessions are on the bleeding edge—the perfect time for you to leverage the daring innovation of others. Dreamforce comes around once a year, but user group meetings and regional conferences are happening all the time (virtually for now due to COVID-19), where you can pick up the latest and greatest ideas. Each new capability you introduce can be an additional differentiating lever.
- Get some best practice advice. Our Salesforce practice has seen many great avenues to pursue—you can also get good experience-based advice from your colleagues and peers in the industry. Be careful on relying on one semi-experienced admin or IT consultant to build your infrastructure who could lead you down a less scalable path. If you get it right the first time, it has a substantial pay off as you build on top of the foundation. If you take the wrong approach, you can quickly build up tech debt and make it harder to innovate later.
- Look on the AppExchange and other products in the ecosystem. Whenever possible, at a minimum, you want to look at the “buy” versus going straight to “build.” If someone produces a product that solves your problem, you can usually get the best in class solution by licensing it. Another benefit is time to market—implementing an already existing product tends to take a fraction of the time it takes to build a capability on your own. That being said, building it on your own typically has significant cost benefits in the long run (no recurring license costs), and it enables you to create a solution that exactly fits your needs.
- Get aggressive and take calculated risks. Very few companies outpace their competition by staying safe. Look for high-impact, low-effort, low-risk options as low hanging fruit and be strategic on your longer-term goals. Going through a quick roadmap exercise is critical to know where you should go. If you are unsure, mapping out several paths will help you identify those innovation moments when they come. Look at your current solutions’ expiration dates—license renewal times are a good time to think about switching out a point solution for a better solution. Having gone through the exercise of identifying your future needs makes it much easier to capitalize on the opportunities as they arise. In addition, it minimizes the danger of being just reactive all the time.
Most of the time, our resistance to innovation is simply not knowing the steps to move the ball forward. When we say, “I don’t think we should do this now,” we are really saying, “I don’t have the time to investigate this further to know what to do, so I will put this on the back burner until I have time to look into it.” The investment in “knowing” is much less than the investment in “doing.” It is often beneficial to understand the roadmap and the potential solution offerings out there to be informed of what is possible and generate a planned path forward. When you understand the options (what solutions are out there to build or in existing packages), how difficult and how much rough cost it might incur, you have the information to execute on your growth path more opportunistically and more proactively.