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Does Salesforce have the Right Ingredients to Become a Customer Success Platform?

The signs are up already at Moscone declaring Salesforce as “The Customer Success Platform,” the topic of Tuesday’s keynote at Dreamforce 2014.  Whether or not it’s another stroke of marketing genius from Marc (remember “The Customer Company” and “The Internet of Customers”?), it’s awesome to see Salesforce bring Customer Success into the spotlight.  As an ex-Salesforcer, I’m thrilled to see this move.  Because I think Salesforce will help push the entire industry in the right direction, as only Marc can.

And it’s about time all of us make this critical transformation.  The days of marketing and selling to customers and then stepping away are gone.  We have to engage customers on an on-going basis and make sure they are seeing success using our products and services. As pioneers in this space, we at Totango have learned a couple of important things about Customer Success during our journey.  For a Customer Success platform to work and be truly effective, you really need a couple of important ingredients — and it will be interesting to see how Salesforce addresses these.

  • First, you have to bring a monitoring paradigm to Customer Success.  The world is moving to sensors and you need to think about customer success in the same way.  Think of it as a Fitbit for customer health.  Customer Success is not only about improving how you organize and manage information, or how you can be more effective automating a business process.  The question is “how do I really understand the value I’m delivering to customers in an always on, always connected world?”  Companies need a new kind of sensory capability to capture and listen to customers — and this needs to happen in real-time.
  • Second, everyone knows that more data is not the answer.  But what we’ve seen is that even analytics is not enough.  You need to unlock the insights and signals hidden inside for it to be meaningful, relevant, and actionable by business users (sales, marketing, customer support, customer success).

Now, both these shifts are not trivial for a company like Salesforce that was born in the relational database world.  Marketing aside, this is a tough and complex technical challenge. As someone who used to battle the competition and position against the competition in the early days at Salesforce, I know that a core part of Salesforce’s advantage over Siebel back then (and to this day with Oracle) was the fact that we were built from the ground up in the cloud, something Siebel/Oracle could not magically re-do.  Now Salesforce will have the same challenge.  It is not built from the ground up for the computing era where sensors, monitoring, and live data streams are taking over the world. At Salesforce we used this slide showing the evolution of computing — from mainframe to client-server to cloud.  I believe every Dreamforce keynote, since the first one in 2003, has shown some version of this. salesforce mission2 It’s time to add the next evolution to this slide.  I think the 4th great wave of computing is upon us… a computing era of sensors, monitoring, and live data streams.  It will be interesting to hear Marc’s vision and see what he has to say about Customer Success at his keynote on Tuesday.

Kaiser Mulla-Feroze

I'm the CMO at Totango. I love the challenge of bringing new products to market. Before Totango, I spent over 12 years at salesforce.com across products, marketing, and business development. I had the most fun there during the early days when we were establishing salesforce's product leadership position. I'm looking forward to doing the same at Totango.

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