We had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Steve Garnett, EMEA Chairman at salesforce.com to one of our Tquila All Hands events. Steve entertained the eager crowd with a humorous insight into his career, experience and thoughts on the computer industry and cloud computing in particular. Steve told us:
- Almost every company is or will be affected by social media. All organisations need to understand how they can leverage new technologies to serve their own customers better and crush their competition
- The days of software are numbered! It might be a big number, but it’s happening. Virtually every software vendor will move to the cloud model
- Remembering, Jean Paul Getty’s 3 stage formula for success – rise early, work hard, and then find oil! Steve adds his own: Cloud, Social and Mobile is today’s oil. Once you find oil, mine the hell out of it!
- In his free time, Steve is learning Thai, and enjoys cooking Thai food.
In your opinion, what is the best use a company can make of social technologies?
I think first of all, just about every company is or will be affected by social media. The whole world is moving towards the cloud computing model and living and working mobile and social, but I think there are still some executives, in some of the companies I visit, that think that social media, Twitter, Facebook, and the blogsphere, are just for teenagers to “play”, and are not relevant for them or their business.
I recently met the Head of Service for one of the large European airlines, who kept his arms folded during the presentation (negative body language) when we were talking about the relevance of social media to his business, he simply didn’t believe in it or its business relevance. At the end of the presentation we asked him if he would mind taking part in a demonstration, which he agreed to, thinking the results would be irrelevant. There were a handful of other senior executives in the room. We queried his airline on Twitter and he was very surprised there were a large number of conversations about the quality of their first class service: people were referring to the great service they were getting, the first class lounge experience etc. Firstly, he was astonished that some of his most important customers were tweeting about the service. Then when we looked at the company for negative sentiment, there were lots of complaints regarding his people not answering phones, bags being lost, lack of information… And suddenly, he realised this was relevant and couldn’t be ignored.
The point here is that like it or not, your brand will be discussed. It’s up to you whether you want to join the conversation. People are realising that the power of social media is enormous. You might have a price increase that your customers react badly to; you might launch a new product that is going down a storm, and yet your marketing and sales departments don’t address that real-time feedback. Do they even know about it? Now, you can monitor all this, you can listen, engage, act, publish. Personally I think that there will be very few companies, of any size, that won’t want to listen to the voice of their customer. The customer revolution is happening as every customer now has access to social media, and so, via their mobile device, has a voice.
Speaking of the voice of the customer, there are arguments that in the near future, the experts won’t surface above the crowd due to volume and ‘noise’. Do you think this will be a trend? Or will the truth be heard?
That’s a tricky one because you can argue the same about democracy… You can go out and listen to sound bites from the crowd and argue that people could be more politically informed, but once you start going down that route it’s a slippery slope. I think you have to trust in the power of the crowds and that the sensible voices will dominate. When we use crowd sourcing technologies some people will have silly suggestions for how companies should act, but the majority tend to be logical, informed and rational. We see this working today when we shop on Amazon. Some of the products get a huge number of reviews and it usually averages out on what the majority think. For large companies, when they poll customers, I believe you get a sensible view.
Salesforce does this for example. We ask our customers what they think around product development. Do we take all the views into account? Yes. But then we have to decide what to develop and what to disregard. We then explain that back to the customers. Listening forces managers to articulate and justify their decisions because we have to take a balance around what we think is right. It doesn’t mean you have to do everything the customer suggests, but at least you get a channel to explain your decisions.
What do you think will happen to companies who don’t put their customers first and who don’t embrace these new technologies?
There’s no CEO who says “I’m not going to put my customers first”, but talk is cheap! It’s easy to have customer centric straplines. We probably all have experience of a company that we hate dealing with, because the customer experience is so bad. This has always been the case, but today what’s different is the power of social media to flag the companies that tell a good story but fail to deliver. Finally, through technology the customers now have a voice and they are shouting loud and clear! Relatively recently, if you didn’t like a company’s service or product you wrote to them, sent them an email, called them to say you were unhappy or simply chose to take your business elsewhere. You had no mechanism to promote your dissatisfaction with friends, friends of friends or colleagues. After all life is too short to continuously complain. The company in question could have this negativity building up but it was fairly passive and it would take a long time for it to surface into a real problem.
Today, of course, it’s very different. If you get a bad customer experience, you tweet it, it gets retweeted, it goes on to your Facebook page and thousands of connections see it. Within literally minutes you can have a customer revolt because it resonates with others who have had similar poor experiences. Of course the positive is also true when a customer experiences a great product or service and uses social media to communicate that. This turns into a tremendous sales and marketing opportunity for the company to amplify that positivity but only if they have the technologies available to listen, engage and promote it.
Part 2 of Tquila’s interview with Steve, is now available here.