Salesforce Brazil bets on customer experience focus

The cloud provider is optimistic about the Latin market as customer-related applications become more crucial to user organizations
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

The challenging economic conditions that Brazilian organizations have faced over the last couple of years have accelerated the adoption of more cost-effective alternatives to software as well as a sharper focus on selling more and in the most effective way - which spells good news for companies like cloud systems firm Salesforce.com.

Adoption of cloud computing in Brazil - until recently seen as innovation - has now hit the mainstream and is a standard component of IT budgets, with 20 percent growth and spending of $890 million predicted for 2017, according to IDC.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS), with applications in areas such as customer relationship management (CRM) leads the pack in terms of cloud usage and there will be "significant demand" from organizations in that particular segment this year, according to a separate study by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

A popular option in various other markets worldwide, the Salesforce toolset is often preferred by Brazilian IT decision makers when it comes to SaaS systems focused on various aspects of CRM - particularly customer experience management.

Supporting customer experience

Contrary to other major companies who have reiterated their plans for Brazil - such as Cisco, BT and Kaspersky Lab - Salesforce does not disclose any specific plans for the short to medium term for the country, but its executives have been quoted as saying that the Brazilian business has been given more autonomy in terms of strategy and has received more investment to support growth.

According to Latin America marketing director at Salesforce, Daniel Hoe, the company is "very excited" about the Brazilian operation. Again, the firm does not discuss specific numbers but it is estimated that approximately 3 million companies currently use its applications throughout the country.

"Alongside economic and business developments over the years we can notice a few themes when it comes to technology: first we saw improvements focused on logistics and distribution, then in the 90s we saw the focus on process improvement with the introduction of systems like enterprise resource planning platforms and so on. Now, it is clear that the advantage tech provides is around getting to know your customers and being close to them," Hoe tells ZDNet.

"Also, the fact that smartphones and connected devices have become so ubiquitous also means that there is a lot of information about customers available [to companies] and therefore expectations from the end consumer also tends to grow," Hoe adds.

While one might assume that Brazilian organizations are behind the curve when it comes to adoption of customer relationship and experience improvement tools, the reality demonstrates that it is quite the opposite: half of the IT investments around consumer products in Brazil will be focused on supporting improvements in customer experience in 2017, according to analyst Gartner.

Salesforce has a vast array of customers in its Brazilian portfolio, ranging from aerospace conglomerate Embraer, which uses the vendor's tools for areas such as sales and marketing to employee benefits management giant Ticket, another user of its integrated CRM products.

According to Hoe, a noticeable trend within technology departments in all business verticals in Brazil is the active pursuit of peer advice from organizations in tech hubs such as the Silicon Valley.

"[Brazilian companies] are going there in droves to better understand best practices and learn from their experiences - we have seen that happening in companies ranging from startups to well-established, traditional companies," says Hoe.

"However, adoption levels in Brazil are very much in line with more "developed" markets. We see that in areas such as manufacturing - which is not typically a sector where you would expect a high level of customer interaction - there are very interesting projects around digital transformation around processes, which inevitably leads to a sharper focus on customer relationships," the Brazilian executive adds.

Democratizing technology

The advent of software-as-a-service in markets where enterprise technology has traditionally been costly such as Brazil means that more sophisticated applications that provide a better handle of customers - and therefore business success - have become more accessible to local organizations.

"The real revolution that SaaS has introduced in the Brazilian market is really around democratizing leading edge technology, which until then was only possible to large companies. With the SaaS model, it is just a subscription that is affordable by any organization, with support and capabilities of a large company that are accessible to, say, a startup," Hoe says.

According to Hoe, the startup and small and medium enterprise bracket in Brazil is very mature in terms of the usage of Salesforce tools, but the company continues to invest in programs that aim to educate and bring awareness to organizations in that space. The company actively works with startups through partnerships with the Brazilian Startups Association and also has its own initiative for fostering new businesses in the country.

"Smaller companies in Brazil are very different now and have changed for the better - they are often well-funded and well-informed and understand that bringing attention to their offerings and handling customers better is a crucial pillar to their survival and they have to ensure that these aspects of their businesses work well," Hoe says.

Overall, Brazilian enterprises are progressing from the previous focus on back-office automation to technology that is aimed at the final customer, according to the executive.

"The back-office is already digital and better customer experience needs to be supported by solid underlying technology, so there is a shift in (IT) investment patterns that will see much more of a focus on the things that will generate more business," Hoe concludes.

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