Long before he became CEO of Western Union, Hikmet Ersek saw firsthand how the company could change its customers’ lives. “I’m a migrant, you know,” the Turkish-born Ersek explained. “I went to Europe and studied and sent money to my father. My father took the money, paid his doctor and pharmacy bills, and bought a TV so he could see the news. The impact of sending him that money was enormous.”
Western Union has been in business for over 160 years — it is the second-longest-listed corporation on the New York Stock Exchange. The company serves customers in more than 200 countries worldwide, through 500,000 retail locations and at over 100,000 ATMs. Despite that enormous scale, it’s the opportunity to make an impact in people’s lives in the most personal ways that really drives Western Union’s business today. “It’s more than moving money; it’s moving support,” said Ersek. “Moving money for better” is more than the company’s tagline — it’s Western Union’s ethos.
Western Union handles a staggering 29 transactions per second across the globe. Thirty percent of those transactions involve education. “The number-one reason why people send money back home is education,” said Ersek. “Parents want their children to have a better life. So they leave home, work hard, and send money back so the children can go to school. It’s a very emotional moment.”
The trust that customers from Brooklyn to Bangladesh place in Western Union to deliver their hard-earned money securely and on time isn’t lost on company leadership. “You can’t break that trust,” Ersek said.
The CEO and his teams build on that trust by listening to customers and innovating to meet their needs. “Our customers are around the globe, and traveling and migrating in many cases. They really embrace mobile,” said Chief Technology Officer David Thompson. “So we have to move fast with mobile capabilities around the globe and in multiple languages.”
As a global company, Western Union faces the challenge — and opportunity — of serving many customer bases with a diversity of needs. Some people want to walk into a retail location and pick up cash. Others want to have money transferred into their bank or mobile wallet accounts. “We adapted our platform to the needs of customers and asked them how they want to pick up the money,” Ersek said. Salesforce is a major partner in helping Western Union deliver exactly what its customers need.
“Our relationship with Salesforce is quite broad,” said Thompson. “We use it to help us understand our customers better, but also to service our customer needs in a more efficient manner.” Company leaders use the term “the omni-channel customer” to describe their 360-degree view of each client. Salesforce sits at the core of Western Union technology, to better serve the omni-channel customer.
For Ersek, Salesforce offers an optimized way to bring together the many arms of his complex global business. With concerns as diverse as changing regulatory compliance requirements, shifting currencies and markets, and maintaining trust and security, the Customer Success Platform lets Western Union run on a single, optimized platform. “Putting it all on one platform has been a huge help,” the CEO said. “Salesforce has been very successful in helping us manage it all, so we extended our scope. And so far, what I see is a good, fruitful partnership here.”
Western Union uses Sales Cloud to manage the entire lifecycle of more than 500,000 third-party agents worldwide, from prospecting to onboarding and ongoing relationship management. Sales Cloud has led to 40 percent faster agent onboarding overall, which has cut costs and accelerated revenue growth. A newly launched initiative built on Analytics Cloud measures agent productivity around the world, which helps company leaders identify and react to trends in operations effectiveness.
Salesforce also connects Western Union employees across 80 offices worldwide, and App Cloud serves as the platform for building custom customer-facing applications. SVP and President of Western Union Business Solutions Kerry Agiasotis has championed the use of Salesforce Chatter within the company. His group uses the social enterprise tool to stay aligned internally and share the latest financial news and information in service of their customers. “Chatter lets us capture data from many sources and plug it into real-time dialogue with customers,” said Agiasotis. “It keeps the customer at the center of everything.”
The close bond between Western Union and Salesforce is easily traced to a shared philosophy of customer relationships. “This notion of CRM as something independent — I don’t see it as something discrete,” Agiasotis said. “It means becoming connected to the core of our customers’ businesses. And that’s how we’re thinking of Salesforce.”
Many of Agiasotis’ customers are businesses looking to grow internationally. One of his team’s biggest jobs is to help executives understand the impact foreign exchange has on their businesses. “More than three-quarters of businesses today do not know the value of an international invoice until they pay it,” he said. “It’s staggering.”
Western Union Business Solutions uses App Cloud to create purpose-built applications that help clients understand these invoices — and, in turn, their overall cost base — before they pay them. The benefit goes beyond saving the customer money. Integrating itself into the heart of a customer’s business helps Western Union go from managing customers to forging true partnerships with them.
On the consumer side, a university payment product is opening doors previously held shut by red tape. “We listened to the Indian students,” Ersek said. “They wanted to pay tuition in Indian rupees to Oxford University in England so they could get their visa and go study there.” A university payment product was built to simplify the international legal and financial parts of the transactions, building educational bridges across borders.
The university payment product, like many of Western Union’s current innovations, speaks directly to the CEO’s own life story, from his days as a student abroad to his current work breaking down financial barriers for millions of customers.
Recently, Ersek was meeting with a group of new entrepreneurs, Indian women who had built businesses and developed a microfinance network to support one another’s ventures. Ersek noted that they spoke differently than they had just a few years before, because of what they’d accomplished, and that they were forging better futures for themselves and their families.
“It’s extremely powerful to see that change happening, and happening in countries that we don’t always read about in the headlines,” he said. “It’s very personal, because I’ve been through something like that. Western Union is a main part of it, and it makes me very proud.”