Helen Robinson, President and Australasian managing director at Pivotal and Doug Farber, a vice president at Salesforce.com Asia-Pacific, compare notes on where the local customer relationship management (CRM) business is headed.
Robinson: CRM vendors should refine their solutions based on feedback from customers to ensure they satisfy business needs in the marketplace. What formal feedback/customer research strategies does salesforce.com have in place?
Farber: For our six-year lifespan, we've run regular roadshows and club events to encourage users to network and exchange ideas with each other, as well as with us. For the last two years, the company has run a customer forum called Dreamforce that gives users a direct line into developers and our senior management to give us their feedback on what they would like to see and what their current issues are. In each country, we have customer success managers who proactively work with their clients to look at ways to maximise investment.
Communicating the ease of customisation has been key throughout the organisation's life, and most users have found this one of the main benefits of using salesforce.com. However, our most tangible commitment has been an average of three releases of major improvements to our service per year to demonstrate we are continually taking feedback on board. This is unprecedented in our industry, where 18-24 month product release cycles are the norm.
Farber: Microsoft has been making noise in the mid-market CRM space. Do you see that as a threat?
Robinson: With a company like MS being active in the CRM space, we have in fact found more organisations are becoming aware of what CRM can offer them and are getting a first taste of CRM-like solutions from MS.
What this MS activity has done is draw people's attention to the fact that CRM is not just about products and software, but about business needs and solutions. MS's involvement has in fact stimulated the market for Pivotal and put us on more people's radar.
Robinson: How has salesforce.com adapted its solution to meet the changing business needs of mid-market Australian companies and organisations?
Farber: The same as we have the world over. We've listened to user feedback and given them the tools (such as easy customisation, customforce, multiforce, and sforce) to change our platform to suit their business as they see fit.Australian companies are not facing any challenges that other mature markets haven't experienced. Our proposition works well in any language, 'Strine, Spanish, or whatever -- it's simple to use, low risk, and easy to customise. It's not just technology that's a differentiator here, it's also service. Our Australian office is well staffed with experts who understand the local market and any emerging challenges. The Aussie market has responded incredibly well to our "give it a go" philosophy of providing free trials of the service to give proof of concept before companies need to buy.
We're not selling the same high-investment model as other software vendors. We provide an enterprise-class application for a fraction of the cost, risk, and complexity of other vendors.We benefit from customers who have had a traditional CRM package enforced on them, perhaps by an overseas head office, with little local support from the vendor or implementers, and decide to go under the radar and use salesforce.com.
Australia is more of a testimonial-based country, so if what you're doing works, by nature, everyone knows about it. And if it doesn't, everyone knows about it!