What drives companies to adopt Salesforce.com and the associated ecosystem of marketing and customer outreach services that is building up around it?
It isn't simply the anticipated productivity benefits: increasingly, buyers see the platform as integral to improving proactive customer engagement, according to research conducted by Salesforce.com partner Bluewolf. Indeed, 84 percent of the companies responding to Bluewolf's second annual analysis of customer trends believe that customer engagement will be the primary key to future growth.
"An extraordinary customer experience is rare, but it is a powerful differentiator," said Eric Berridge, Bluewolf founder and CEO.
The findings for the latest State of Salesforce report were gleaned from interview with more than 450 businesses, based on a survey developed in collaboration with MIT Sloan School of Management. Approximately 86 percent of the respondents are using either an enterprise or unlimited edition of Sales Cloud; 56 percent of them have at least three years of experience with the platform. This is the second year that Bluewolf has published this report.
"At Bluewolf, we believe customer obsession is the single biggest contributor to growth," writes Berridge in the report. "Becoming what Salesforce.com calls a 'customer company' means looking at business differently, from the outside in. It means continuously evaluating policies, processes, and operations from the customer's perspective."
For 60 percent of the companies surveyed by Bluewolf, customer engagement was the top priority for the upcoming year, the research shows.
The second big interest is mobile applications: 52 percent of those surveyed are planning to build a customer mobile app on the Salesforce.com (or have already done so). Of these, 18 percent already report "significant business results" from mobile initiatives. The three most commonly installed mobile applications among the survey respondents were Chatter Mobile, Salesforce Classic and Salesforce Touch.
"Do not try to replicate Salesforce in a mobile app," the report notes. "It will be too complex to use and maintain. Ride-alongs with users highlight where the pain points are -- and ways mobile can enhance workflows."
The third big trend? Best-in-class companies are creating multidisciplinary teams to govern their cloud projects: composed of individuals from both the IT organization and across different divisions. "If an initiative is just governed by IT, they won't achieve the right objectives," Berridge said. "The same also holds true if the project is driven just from the business side."
More than 90 percent of the respondents (93 percent to be specific) believe that governance is critical to the success of a cloud initiative, and 61 percent of them have a group dedicated to cloud governance.
The fourth trend surfaced by the Bluewolf research suggests that the businesses using the Salesforce platform most effectively have spent time training their employees and partners on how to use the technology most effectively. Almost 90 percent of the respondents have invested in education or adoption resources for their administrators and developers (and 42 percent pay for employees to be certified officially), while 47 percent have invested in a comprehensive adoption strategy that involves consulting users before, after and during the rollout (or whenever changes are made).
"Most organizations don't consider the full impact of low adoption," the Bluewolf report notes. "Low adoption can negatively affect employee morale and trust, the ability to meet business objectives, and customer engagement."