Special Guest Q&A: Denis Pombriant, author of "Solve for the Customer"
In the past 3 years, my Q&A blog posts have profiled employees, partners and customers. I’m excited to share that this is the first Q&A to feature an industry influencer. Our special guest, Denis Pombriant, is a well-known CRM analyst, blogger, speaker, author and a judge from this year’s FinancialForce 360 Customer Excellence Awards. Denis spent some time chatting with me about his impressions of the customer nominations, the motivations behind his book, Solve for the Customer, and what our customers can gain from it.
- Hi Denis! Thanks again for being one of our 360 awards judges this year! What were your impressions? Anything in particular stood out to you?
As you know, Sandy, I’ve been very interested in the rapid evolution the process business model. When I started my book it was my hypothesis that rigid, transaction oriented approaches that rely on spreadsheets to memorialize transactions were heading out the door. There are many reasons for this but especially the development of the subscription economy and now the subscription culture. Customers have been trained to change vendors, with very low switching costs, whenever they are dissatisfied.
A transaction orientation misses most of the signals that customers give before they leave a vendor and well-constructed processes capture those things and enable vendors to be in the moment with customers and thus to ward off bad outcomes.
What I saw in the FinancialForce 360 Awards was a large number of companies validating my theory. In case after case I saw companies throwing out their spreadsheet apps in favor of important standardized cloud apps like PSA, HCM, SCM and more. Time after time these companies showed that they didn’t have to give up anything other than old habits to have better systems that helped them serve customers better. The fact that it was all integrated through Salesforce1 didn’t hurt either.
- Let’s talk about Solve for the Customer. What motivated you to write this book? What are you trying to convey to readers?
I am always asking myself what’s next in the front office. In 2004 I wrote a paper called “The New Garage” that called for the integration of social networking, analytics and CRM to produce a cloud architecture much like what we now see in Salesforce1. Back then there were barely any social media companies and I was using “social networking” generically. But here we are a decade later and it’s pretty much what I expected.
So when I sat down to write this book I was asking myself what’s going on [in the front office] and where it all might go. In my view, the development of subscriptions has disconnected customers from the employees of subscription vendors. This has necessitated taking a deep dive into process to harvest customer data for analysis and to drive next best actions in customer journeys. That’s process and I don’t think you can do business much longer without a serious process orientation augmented by technology.
- How has reception to the book been? What do people tell you?
I’ve been gratified by the reception though I have to acknowledge that books like this don’t become best sellers. The important point is that companies like Oracle, Salesforce and Microsoft took it seriously and many executives have written me with praise. It’s really neat to hear an executive on stage giving credit to the ideas in the book. I’ve also participated in several book signings at conferences and I am speaking at them as well, trying to tell the story.
- That’s great to hear, Denis. What do you think FinancialForce.com customers can learn from the book?
First of all, because they’re already cloud oriented and many are also Salesforce customers, I’d say that your customers are in the vanguard. However, this is no time to rest. I think your customers can benefit most from a continued effort to move their systems to the cloud and to, where possible, employ apps that are platform native so that they can reap the most benefit from their investments and avoid some of the pitfalls of integration and synchronization for instance.
- What do you have in store in 2016? What can we look forward to?
I’ll continue to be on the speaking circuit and I am also researching a new book that will be a follow up to Solve for the Customer. I am looking forward to continuing my work with the CRM and cloud communities because people are very nice and they give me great insights.
- And we look forward to continuing to follow your articles and blog posts. Thanks for taking the time to speak to us! What is the easiest way for our readers to get a copy of the book?