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Welcome to the age of the customer

The London leg of the Salesforce World Tour took place at the Excel Centre yesterday, with a strong emphasis being placed on the notion of ‘the age of the customer.’

The level of competition in today’s business landscape has never been higher – brought on by the emergence of a swathe of new, innovative companies – which means businesses of all sizes now have to work harder to retain their customers and match their expectations.

Salesforce has always been a company that has prided itself on a strong relationship with its customers, but this approach now seems to be getting a renewed focus and it feels like the right time to do so. After a brief preamble between Andy Lawson (SVP and UK country leader) and Ed Vaizey (Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy) a video kicked things off, accompanied by a booming, almost god-like voice which introduced us to this customer-centric world we now inhabit.

The voice from above spoke about how the most profound change is not taking place within industry, it’s happening to customers, as “the great equalisers” technology, mobility and the internet have made customers “exponentially smarter, faster and put them in control like no other time in history.” He continued: “These customers are not looking for a product, they’re looking for a trusted advisor and an experience. They’re not just looking for answers, they want deep, meaningful insights.” In other words, “the age of the customer has arrived” and businesses now need to “connect to customers in a whole new way.”

The sentiment was echoed by Salesforce’ chief adoption office, Polly Sumner, who spoke about building “1-1 customer journeys that help you keep your customers for life” and the importance of realising that technology isn’t actually the important bit. What’s important is the fact that behind every interaction with a piece of technology, there is a customer.

And of course data has a vital role to play. According to Polly, “only 1 per cent of the data in our companies is being analysed and shockingly, 70 per cent of customers say they are not engaged with the companies that they purchase from.” That’s an awful lot of data going to waste and a lot of potential avenues for businesses to explore. Polly cited Virgin Media of an example of a company that has been using data in different ways to connect to customers. Virgin has connected data from its apps, products and employees, enabling the company to offer “a multichannel experience with personal, intelligent customer interactions.”

Uber also got a mention – as is the law for every tech show these days – for the way it is combining its own data with information about local events, weather reports and traffic patterns, so it can predict hotspots and peak times and ensure that the right amount of cars are available in certain areas.

But my favourite example featured Mattel, the toy retailer that produces the famous Hot Wheels cars that I used to buy as a child. Polly rather boldly stated that Mattel is “redefining the future of play” by including a QR code on every Hot Wheels box. The owner can then go on to the app and register his or her car, creating a fun digital experience as well as a physical one.

Paul Smith, GM EMEA for Salesforce marketing cloud rounded things off, highlighting the importance of creating “unique experiences” for each and every customer and joining up all the individual interactions – such as across email, mobile and social - into “one meaningful customer journey.”

So, the age of the customer is very much here. Companies need to ensure that they are positively engaging with their customers at all points of their purchasing journey, or risk losing out to those who are.

Image source: Shutterstock/Jirsak