Telstra tries for digital intimacy in customer-first strategy

Telstra is angling for greater digital intimacy with its customer base as it opens its new generation flagship Sydney store and leverages Salesforce cloud infrastructure to drive a customer-first strategy.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor and  Leon Spencer, Contributor

Telstra is hoping to become more "digitally intimate" with its customers, following the opening of its newly revamped Sydney headquarters and flagship store.

"We wanted to create a different environment," said Telstra CEO David Thodey at the opening event in Sydney on October 20. "We wanted to create what we call a digitally intimate experience."

The reopening of the company's Sydney HQ and adjoining store comes after an AU$112 million refurbishment, which the company said has transformed the site into a "state-of-the-art customer technology hub".

The new Telstra "Discovery Store", which features a number of technological initiatives aimed at personalising customers' experience with the company's retail and sales operations, was designed as a new template that is expected to be rolled out across its retail outlets throughout Australia over the next 12 to 18 months.

"This new flagship store is designed around our customers so they can have highly personalised experiences, guided by our expert team of consultants," said Thodey. "Our customers are telling us that they appreciate our more personalised approach to service.

"We also know they like to touch and experience things in a store, and they also like the choice, speed, and convenience of digital channels.

"This store delivers all of that, in an environment where the physical and digital worlds come together and customers can move seamlessly between them. It’s a great way to discover the 'connected life' our innovative technology and services can provide," he said.

Telstra CEO David Thodey at the opening of the company's new flagship Sydney store on October 20.
Image: Leon Spencer/ZDNet

The unveiling of the company's new retail store strategy and Sydney HQ comes as its Global business works to drive a customer-first approach through Salesforce cloud infrastructure.

Telstra has been working with Salesforce to bring its customer data onto a single platform in a bid to deliver consistent customer service globally. Telstra embraced the move to cloud in order to drive consistent data sharing throughout its value chain as a way to improve its customer service globally.

The company provides network and managed services across Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the Americas. However, according to Telstra Global CIO Sundi Balu, each region is operating as a separate silo, which makes it difficult for the company to deliver consistent customer service.

As a result, the company began moving its legacy infrastructure into the Salesforce1 cloud platform in 2011, and completed the project in December last year.

Speaking at Dreamforce '14 in San Francisco, Balu said the platform has provided the company with a foundation that has enabled it to drive consistent data sharing throughout the company's global network.

"It's very important for every employee to understand what's happening with the customer; everything from sales to service to commercial. We really needed to have all of our customer information in one location so we could have a much richer conversation with them," he said.

"With Salesforce, we've managed to bring that information together so that every employee has got access ... and have access to all that information."

The Salesforce1 platform has also provided Telstra with customisation capabilities, which Balu said gives customers control and choice, something the company was unable to offer previously.

"People in the technology world would know customisation is a pretty dirty word, because going back 10 or 15 years ago, we had on-premise capabilities, but to customise it, the cost would have actually increased. Now, with a cloud-based ecosystem, it actually gives our customers that flexibility," he said.

Balu added that the company will be looking to implement Salesforce's newly announced Wave cloud platform — the sixth one to be introduced by Salesforce — with the belief that it will give the company added tools to further dissect customer data.

"When we heard about Wave, we thought it could really bring added richness to information for us because it would mean we could drive deep analytic capabilities within our organisation and run it in the cloud," he said. "We're absolutely excited about Wave, and we've been talking about how we can deploy it and get a richer representation of our users, because at the end of the day, everything we do is for the benefit of the customer."

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