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Throughout Salesforce World Tour London 2016, one message rang out loud and clear. The world’s most customer-focused companies are upping their service game – whether their industries are ready or not.

With every new case study, a picture emerged of companies finding fresh ways to engage and delight their customer – whether using the Internet of Things, mobile apps, or better information for customer service agents. And that, in turn, is influencing customer expectations, not only for those companies’ competitors, but across the board.

“Customers’ idea of ‘what is fast’ has changed phenomenally,” observed Salesforce Senior Director for Strategy and Operations, Mark Bloom, during the Service Cloud keynote. “We must be much quicker in resolving problems.”

Service in the Age of the Customer

Opening the proceedings, Salesforce Chief Adoption Officer Polly Sumner gave us a glimpse of the cross-channel journey that brought her to the venue that day – including…

  • Personalised digital media from the BBC
  • Rapid online check-in with Eurostar
  • Pre-ordering a favourite Costa Coffee from a smart watch
  • Using the same watch to hail a ride with Uber
  • Collecting Barclays rewards while shopping for the day’s clothes
  • Booking a convenient beauty treatment at a nearby Treatwell salon
  • Ordering a GBK food delivery through Deliveroo

At every stage, companies are using technology to make the customer’s life easier – and in the process altering their perception of what good service looks like. 

Throughout the event, companies were lining up to share the realities of meeting that challenge in the real world. And it’s not just high-street brands and high-tech giants leading the innovation. 

From call centre to profit centre

VAX is the UK’s number one floorcare brand, serving both consumer and business customers. But the rapid journey from challenger brand to market leader left the company struggling to provide a consistent customer service experience.

Just 18 months ago, a VAX customer service agent might have needed to juggle information from a dozen different systems during a single call – and the frustration took its toll. Customers were understandably unhappy, and team members could be left in tears at the end of a shift.

“It’s painful to recall,” says Carole Edwards, Head of VAX’s Contact Centre. “We had downtime every week – we were failing our customers, and failing our people. If you called us five times in a day, we’d ask you for the same information each time.” 

In addition, customer expectations were rising – making the challenge greater every day. VAX urgently needed to personalise customer engagements, make training easier and – importantly – empower service agents to have better conversations.

VAX put its customer service agents front and centre as it chose its new CRM system, asking which would best help them serve customers better. Unanimously, they chose the Salesforce Service Cloud. It worked.

“Today we have improved our first contact resolution dramatically,” says Carole. “Our agents are happy too. Within one year, we’ve gone from being the lowest-scoring department for employee engagement to leading the company. We’re in a different place completely.”

The customer service transformation came with a surprise bonus: a surge in sales.

Carole explains: “Just by enabling our agents to have better conversations with our customers, we’ve seen a 30% increase in their basket – with little or no effort. Having that single customer view has transformed our business.”

Joined-up thinking

But VAX’s innovation doesn’t stop there. To speed up service to commercial customers, VAX cleaners are increasingly connected direct to Salesforce Service Cloud Lightning – alerting the company to take action before the customer even knows there’s a problem.

Incorporating the Internet of Things into VAX’s 360-degree view of its corporate customers makes service much more efficient. The agent can resolve several problems at once, and also spot patterns in a company’s service history that might hint at other underlying causes. Perhaps there’s a particular gap in operator training leading to a recurring fault – in which case, sending more materials and arranging refresher training takes a single click.

Meanwhile, field service agents have access to all the same information, wherever they are – along with instructions and schematics for completing the job – getting it right first time.

Putting data to use

In the Age of the Customer, customers expect you to know them, and for that knowledge to inform every interaction. If you’re providing customer service, that’s no longer aspirational – it’s the price of admission.

“When people get a sense you don’t know who they are, it really detracts from their overall experience,” says Mark Bloom. “Customers know you have a lot of data about them, and they expect you to put that to use to personalise their experience.

“Customers have all the options, and all the power. That raises the bar if we’re going to drive loyalty by providing positive customer service.

“That’s why old, siloed systems don’t work. Marketing, sales, and service need to come together on a single platform, and deliver one customer experience that the entire organisation can get behind.”

See for yourself

If you’d like to see for yourself how VAX has embraced the Age of the Customer, check out the Service Cloud Keynote: