Amongst all the talk of innovation at Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, a key learning was the importance of exploring why we innovate, and the drivers behind innovation. It’s the customer. It’s too easy to slip into the habit of thinking about technology innovation in terms of physical products alone, forgetting that the customer is the reason why we’re developing those products in the first place.

During a fireside chat between Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, the latter made a prediction for the future of car travel – driverless cars, guided by algorithms. But, it was his following comment that grabbed my attention. He simply stated that this development would likely eliminate road traffic accidents. It goes without saying, driverless cars are cool. But, auto engineers aren’t going to make them (if and when they do) for that reason alone. They’ll do it because in doing so they can offer customers something they want, something of real value – safety!

With this realisation still front of mind, I was inspired by watching an account of how not-for-profit organization Team Rubicon  is focusing as much on managing its relationship with donors as it is on acquiring those donors.

Team Rubicon recruits, trains and deploys military veterans to natural disasters, to make use of their unique skills for disaster response. Steve Johnson of Team Rubicon also points out this interaction helps the veterans themselves, saying, “As they transition into civilian life it gives them a new mission, a new uniform.”

Treat each contact as a person, not a number

More interesting still is how CRM is helping this very personal mission at Team Rubicon and ensuring its financial success. “We’ve got customers like everyone else,” says Johnson, “only ours are donors.” Team Rubicon treats donors like a person, not a number, using CRM to personalise each interaction with every customer. In other words, customer relationships are the top priority. The Salesforce Sales Cloud supports that strategy by delivering in-depth interaction histories for donors, recording critical details in highly accessible, highly-visual formats that are easy for users to interact with.

In this way, every donor receives one to one attention and feels like they’re having a direct impact on the cause - whether they are a $10 or $10,000 contributor. As a result, they remain deeply engaged for a lifetime, not just a single transaction.

Johnson’s advice to businesses is to “build companies with purpose” adding that “if you want to do that, you need to use the right tools”.

What are ‘the right’ tools?

It’s easy enough to sit here and say that as a business you need to use the right tools, and be customer centric. The hard part is knowing where to start to ensure your CRM strategy truly does put the customer at the centre of everything you do. Here’s a quick litmus test to find out whether you are on the right track.

In the midst of the current digital revolution we are experiencing, you can start by asking yourself three things:

1.      Does your CRM have a modern design? Is it optimised for mobile – so that your people love using it and make good use of all of its features?

2.      Does your CRM deliver automation? Sales processes used to demand their users did the thinking – think of what has to be done, and then do it. With modern tools like Sales Cloud, processes happen directly in app, and outcomes are tracked automatically.

3.      Is your CRM intelligent? We are at the cusp of incredibly intelligent apps. It’s exciting! Today, CRM is capable of reaching beyond a system of record, to apply machine learning and push that intelligence out to every user. Don’t just think ‘what are my customers telling me’? But, ‘what are my products telling me and how can I combine that data into a highly personalised relationship with every customer?’ Then you’ll be capable of delivering value beyond what ever seemed possible - that’s the future of customer relationship management.

I’m excited, because this journey to deeper customer engagement through CRM has already begun with modern apps like Salesforce Lightning. Rose Powell of the Australian Financial Review quotes Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris, who said at the Dreamforce event that Lightning is “the biggest upgrade we’ve ever made to the company”.

Writing for CMO, Azadeh Williams says, “The Lightning Experience brings a consumer-­grade experience that is designed to be modern, efficient and intelligent to every Salesforce user on every device—desktop, tablet and mobile. Relevant information is surfaced for each screen, streamlining processes and making workflows more intuitive.”

The reality is, tools like Salesforce Lightning can actively tell reps how to prioritise their day, which activities are most valuable to work on, and when is the right time to send marketing communications. It’s redesigning the way sales reps sell, taking manual data entry off the table – finally!

So, ask yourself when you next interact with your customers: “Do you want that interaction to be based on all the data, or some of the data?”  “Would you rather make a sale, or build a long lasting relationship so that you’re there to deliver to their needs, each and every time those needs change? “ If you answered the latter, you understand the power of  ‘customer’ in CRM.

If you’d like to know how you can create deeper customer engagement through CRM, click here to find out more about Salesforce Lightning.

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