Key Strategies for Transforming Customer and Employee Engagement: The Experience Factor
Joe Thomas: Welcome to our webinar on Key Strategies for Transforming Customer and Employee Engagement. Really excited to have you here, but, if anything, I’m even more excited by our panel. I’m going to have them introduce themselves in a second, but I will at least give you a sense of our thought process and go over a few of the logistics.
I’m Joe Thomas with FinancialForce. I’m going to be moderating this panel. As you see, we have people here representing the customer perspective, the ecosystem that we operate in, and from the implementation side because we think all three of these are applicable to the journeys we’re all trying to take around transforming customer and employee engagement.
I’m going to let each of them introduce themselves, and we’ll go in order of the pictures you see here. So, first, from the ecosystem side, Asli, can you introduce yourself?
Asli Gulcur: Sure. Hi, everyone. My name is Asli Gulcur. I’m the Director in Business Value Services at Salesforce out of the New York office. I’m very happy to be here with you today because it’s a very exciting time for Salesforce.
Joe Thomas: Great. Thank you. Hey, I’m going to shift over to Patrick. Patrick’s going to represent the implementation side. Patrick works at Icon, which is one of our - at FinancialForce - long-standing partners.
Patrick Cherniawski: Good morning, good afternoon. Patrick Cherniawski here. I’m the Founder and Managing Director at Icon Cloud Consulting. I started Icon’s Cloud practice in 2008, and we became FinancialForce partners in 2011.
We’re two-time recipients of Partner of the Year (2017 and 2020). We use PSA ourselves and also FFA for billing.
On a personal note, I’m a football dad. My wife Monica and I have a ninth-grader who’s playing football for the first year, loving it. I also have a Labradoodle. The reason for mentioning that - his name is Cody - you’re probably going to hear him when I’m on today. So, don’t be surprised if you hear a bark.
Joe Thomas: Don’t let the Labradoodle play football. It’s not going to go well.
Great. Last, but not least, from the customer side, I’m going to have Lisa introduce herself.
Lisa Evans: Hi, everyone. I’m Lisa Evans. I’m the PS Operations Supervisor for CDW Canada. I implemented FinancialForce about eight years ago. We have been growing ever since, and it’s been a great ride. Happy to share our experience with you.
Joe Thomas: Yeah. I’m happy to have all three of you on here, I think. I’m really looking forward to this.
So, we’ve gone through intros. Here’s going to be the discussion topics. You’ll see we’ll focus on at least how things might have changed for engagement around service delivery. It’s been an interesting couple of years here, and I”m interested in - hopefully, as you are as well - the perspectives from our panelists. We’ll then shift to looking at customer success organization and engagement practices that people are seeing around that. We’ll conclude with the impact of user experience, both from a customer and employee standpoint. Then we’ll have some time for your questions.
I know our panelists are eager to get going. So, I’m going to start. Let’s start with you, Lisa.
I mean, it’s been an interesting 18 months. Right? I mean, our offices closed in March. I’m not sure when yours have.
How has service delivery changed for your organization?
Lisa Evans: Well, we’ve always done a lot of remote services, being in the IT business, there are a lot of things that we have to do on-site, a lot of our sales [are] focused around data centers and that sort of thing, but we’re also able to do quite a bit of delivery remotely. So, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve been able to pretty much keep up with our funnel.
In fact, because we’re in technology, we’ve been very busy helping a lot of our customers deal with the Covid situation and getting their employees set up to be remote. So, it’s been interesting, for sure, but it’s also been a really fortunate experience in that not much has changed as far as keeping the status quo but also having the luxury of even having better sales and increasing our services. So, it’s not been bad.
Joe Thomas: Great. How do you track service delivery? Is it something you do in spreadsheets? Is this something you use other tools for?
Lisa Evans: Fortunately, we no longer do it in spreadsheets. When I joined the project management office initially - before we even had an entire services organization - everything we were doing was in spreadsheets. We were even tracking time manually by email. We had about four PMs across the country. We were doing about $7 million a year in services, and we needed to get on board with some kind of a solution that was going to allow us to properly grow this business.
We were already a Salesforce customer and a huge advocate. So, when we were looking at solutions for PSA, the smart choice for us was FinancialForce. By doing that, we’ve grown from this sea of endless spreadsheets and manual processes, and we’ve just been able to grow the business. With Icon’s help and following their best practices and with their guidance, we have been able to dominate, pretty much. Our whole department is dominating the business. They look to us now for solutions because of the things that we’re able to do in FinancialForce.
So, as far as being able to eliminate a lot of manual processes and also being able to configure or customize FinancialForce and Salesforce to meet our needs, it’s been a great experience.
Joe Thomas: I can only imagine. We already teased out a little on Salesforce here.Asli, I’m going to come to you. I can’t imagine what it’s like. I mean, FinancialForce, CDW, we’re small compared to you. What have the last 18 months been like for a global enterprise like Salesforce?
Asli Gulcur: Yeah. First of all, Lisa, thank you so much for your comments. It’s great to hear a customer’s perspective and that you’re a big fan.
Joe, to answer your question, I think our numbers speak for themselves. I said at the beginning it’s a very exciting time because we based our guidance for the current year just a few days ago - like, last Thursday - and we initiated guidance for next year. It’s just amazing. It just shows the power of our Salesforce platform, our entire ecosystem, how we were able to not only stay relevant, but lead with innovation for the new world, and help our customers adapt and get back to growth in the new world.
So, it’s very exciting. We are aiming to become… We are growing roughly from a $26 billion company to a $32 billion company. I mean, it’s just the numbers are astounding. It just really is a testament to how our solutions are relevant for the new world and for our customers.
Joe Thomas: Well, I think you were fortunate in that. As far as all companies go, I think Salesforce was probably pretty well-positioned to deal with a remote environment, to deal with the customer-centricity, to deal with the customer engagement. Is there anything that you’d share? I know you probably have some thoughts there around innovation in a time…
Asli Gulcur: Yeah. The question focused on service. I focus on our results as a testament to our delivery success. But, in terms of if you focus on Service Cloud, Service Cloud is like a $6 billion business growing over 20%. The reason for that is… What we see is that the customers were going through a digital transformation. It’s usually the first investment they make because it’s the first point of contact with their customers where they create customer experiences. Likable customer experiences or not, [it’s] where customer loyalty is built or lost.
Because of our solution’s completeness, we had on-the-channel engagement. We have, also, capabilities for field service, contact center, as well as ticketing that companies of solution to get how integrated it is with our entire platform. It provides incredible customer satisfaction and a faster time to resolution. Really, able to higher call volumes, efficiently and effectively, really delighting employees, to begin with. Then, that employee experience translates into delightful customer experiences at the end.
It’s all of these capabilities coming together on a single platform, where we can really make a difference over a differentiated solution.
Joe Thomas: Nice.
Lisa Evans: Wow, Asli. I’m just going to jump in, Joe. I couldn’t agree more. We, CDW, just recently announced that they are rolling out Salesforce globally. The company that I worked for was acquired by CDW a couple of years ago. So, we already have that Salesforce environment. Everyone’s a huge advocate. We already have FinancialForce, so we’ve already proven, sort of to the CDW world, that we are so far ahead because we’ve already taken advantage of having this single platform that allows us to see the customer at every opportunity - right from the minute you get an opportunity to cash collection. It’s been incredible. It’s, I think, the greatest thing about Salesforce, as well. The technology behind that platform is that it allows you to configure. Some people don’t like the word “customize.” But I’m going to say it because it’s not a huge undertaking. But to become somebody to learn the system and to be able to maintain it in-house has been an incredible experience for us. Because FinancialForce is built on that exact same platform, there is just not much we can’t do for our professional services side of the business.
Joe Thomas: Hey, Patrick, I want to get you in here. I know. Yeah.
Patrick Cherniawski: I was on mute. I was going to jump right in, but I couldn’t. [crosstalk]
So, I’m seeing, really, the same thing. So, the work that Asli and Salesforce have been doing to provide those tools and technologies, the efforts that partners who are really leading in the ecosystem - like Lisa and CDW are doing - we’re seeing that really transform the efforts of a lot of other adopters.
So, from my perspective, Cloud adoption is just accelerating. All of those folks who are putting their toes in the pond of Cloud adoption really are jumping in with both feet.
The way we’re seeing this is where, in many cases pre-Covid, our customers were looking at just trying to solve a single business problem with Cloud adoption. Now, they’re really looking at digital transformation. They’re looking at the long-term journey. Right?
So, it’s very much that journey that Lisa is talking about that she’s taking with FinancialForce and Salesforce. We’re seeing that across all of our customers… Not all of our customers, but many of our customers. They’re taking it more seriously. They’re thinking of it long-term. They’re thinking of it big-picture. It’s changing how they’re engaging with us and how they’re engaging with FinancialForce as well.
So, we, as partners, have to come to the table with that big picture. That kind of bleeds into and leads into some of the other topics that you have as well for us, Joe.
Joe Thomas: Yeah. Patrick, I know from our discussions, in some ways you think service delivery is, from your standpoint, has changed for the better. Anything that you would enlighten people around that?
Patrick Cherniawski: So, some of the things that were difficult before are much easier. Just as a couple of examples, pre-Covid, we weren’t getting 100% adoption of collaboration tools. Right? It wasn’t that easy. We had customers that were holding back. They would want to use email, they won’t want to call on the phone, and stuff like that. That’s behind us now. Now, we have 100% adoption.
The challenge with those same customers is, instead of having one or two collaboration tools, we’ve got five. Right? So, is it Teams or is it Slack or is it Google? Right?
It’s one thing for a customer to kind of standardize on it. You can kind of maintain it. But, for us as a team working across multiple collaboration tool sets, it’s a little bit of a challenge. But it’s better than not having the collaboration tools by far.
Joe Thomas: Yeah. Any other challenges you’ve seen? I know the things about people… Remote work has…
I can tell you, this was my first time working from home. I’ve always been a go-to-the-office or be-on-the-road person.
Patrick Cherniawski: Yeah. So, one of the very interesting things that we’ve seen, we’ve always been remote. So, my team has been remote from the start for the 11 years we’ve been in the ecosystem, and it’s worked really well for us. But there are some skills that you have to develop to be effective in a remote working model.
Part of it is using the tools that are available to you - the collaboration tools, Cloud tools, and the skills around that. But part of it is managing your time. Right?
So, what really changed for most people was they lost that block of time driving to work and driving home where they could disconnect from work. It’s gone. Right? Let’s face it.
So, now, when you get up to go to work, you cross the hall and you go into the spare room, or you go down the stairs and you go into the living room and you open your computer. There’s not that separation anymore between work and home. This is a problem that people haven’t totally figured out yet.
Work is too accessible. It’s too easy. You’re on call too much. I think it’s going to take another six months or a year for this to finally sink in and for people to find their balance between work and home life. That balance was easier to keep when you had that drive home. It’s a little bit harder to keep now, I think.
Joe Thomas: That’s an interesting perspective. Go ahead, Asli.
Asli Gulcur: Yeah. I mean, I think those challenges, also, as we’ve seen accelerated innovation that we’ve been experiencing in our ecosystem, and also efficiencies. I mean, we came up with new products pretty much in weeks, like work.com. We’re like the number one provider of vaccine management, contact tracing. We’ve built new capabilities into our existing solutions, such as the virtual remote service that Patrick was mentioning. We really also pivoted from face-to-face selling to remote selling successfully. So, I think it was just an organizational adoption, helped and enabled by technology, because we use technology (Salesforce technology) in our day-to-day operations.
Joe Thomas: Yeah. Great. I think we could probably spend all day talking just on this one topic, but I want to get us through the other ones and make sure we have some time for the audience questions.
Lisa, I’m going to come to you, and I’m going to ask you at least about customer success. How do you measure it? Do you have a separate organization that’s responsible for that? Give us your thoughts on customer success and customer success organizations.
Lisa Evans: So, one of the major initiatives for CDW this year is all customer-centric. Like, a lot of it is… It’s not just directly involved with the customer. It doesn’t mean that everything that we’re doing customer-centric is something that the customer necessarily sees or benefits or recognizes the benefit from it. But, what it does, we are able to - especially with these systems - be far more efficient. We’re able to drive, you know, like validation and have dashboards and be proactive with our data. When you’re doing that, the customer is going to benefit from it.
I’ll give you a perfect example. When we initially rolled out PSA, we were still doing our invoicing in our ERP system. So, there was a lot of redundant data in both systems. It was a huge manual effort. It was also taking us three weeks on average just to get the prior month’s invoicing out.
Well, in services - especially if you’re doing T&M every month and you want to get those invoices out, waiting three weeks is really going to impact your cash flow negatively. So, we implemented the billing module from FinancialForce. We literally went from three weeks to about two days. Now we can get the invoices out.
It’s funny how many people want their invoices sooner than later, but they have to account for things on their end. So, that’s just such a tiny example of such a huge win.
We were able to eliminate a full-time role that was just to re-enter the data. The person who was doing that was able to go into a role that was far more value-add. That’s happened a couple of times. I can sit here all day long and give examples. But it’s just having that automation, being smart about it, and gaining efficiencies.
I think, also, you know in this almost 100% remote environment for us since last March, we’ve been able to really focus. We’ve had that additional time to… You know, the time that you’re not at the water cooler for 20 minutes every morning or afternoon. You know, like you were saying, Patrick. You’re just like going to the same room every day. At the same time, you have a little bit more… I find that we have more really productive time on our hands. So, we’ve been able to focus on our company’s goals being customer-centric. Our services department has built our entire initiatives for this year to be focused around that. All of that is being done in Salesforce and in FinancialForce.
Again, because we are now rolling out this solution globally, we’re on that world stage for CDW, and they’re turning to us. So, they want to know how did you do it? What did you do right? There’s no need to really reinvent the wheel. Because it’s such an incredible platform - and I mean that passionately - it’s going to be so easy for us to roll this out across multiple countries for CDW because we’ve already baked everything in. We’ve already got it figured out. All the things that we do now, and all the initiatives that we do with PSA, it’s just constantly, “Okay, what other out-of-the-box functionalities aren’t we using?” Forecasting is a really big deal. We had a very manual, convoluted way of working that out in FinancialForce. So, now we’re grown to the point that we do proper utilization, we have more compliance - we have better compliance, we are using the resource planner.
We’ve built out our resource management office. We have four people! When we started, there was no RMO. We only started that RMO two years ago. We were able to sell that concept, by the way, because I got Patrick from Icon on the phone to talk to our senior management to explain and to demonstrate the value of having a proper RMO and using the resource management within PSA. Again, it’s all coming down to we’re just far more efficient. It’s always a matter of what’s the next thing we’re going to accomplish. Sometimes you have to pick your battles, for sure, because if I had it my way I’d be doing it all day long. But you’ve got a lot of other departments that you’ve got to take with you.
But we find that the user adoption has been so positive. It’s been such a great experience that whenever we do want to roll something else out - like another feature. Like, for PMs, we do a lot for… Right now, we’ve done a whole invoice automated approval process. We’re rolling that out right now. The PMs are elated because they don’t have to wait for something to come into their mailbox. So, they’re our customers. Right? The PMs are our customers. The delivery resources, whatever we can do to make their job easier. Again, it means that they’re going to focus more time with the customer than worrying about the details.
Joe Thomas: Well, Lisa, we’ll dive a little more into some of those topics probably here in the third one.
Asli, we know it’s a great platform, but I’m more interested in hearing your thought leadership. I know Salesforce is probably one of the first orgs to really push a customer success organization. Can you talk a little about that and the journey that’s been made there?
Asli Gulcur: I mean, actually, we’re seeing a live demonstration of customer success with Lisa. I mean, so I’m loving listening to Lisa. This is customer success. Lisa, thank you for your passion, for really drawing out the benefits of our platform, really highlighting what that means for you, your business, and how excited [are you] about the global rollout.
As you pointed out, Joe, we were the leaders, also, in customer success concepts because it’s one of our core values, along with trust, innovation, and equality. Our organizational structure is congruent with that. So, we have a separate, large customer success organization that ensures post-sales success with our customers, making sure that it’s really a strong partnership and it’s a sustainable partnership going forward, and it’s an independent organization. Apart from sales, reporting to our customer success president Bill Millham, who also is a direct report of Marc Benioff. So, the organizational structure is very much in line with the customer success concept.
We run, as I mentioned to you, we run Salesforce on Salesforce, so we have tools to monitor. We have tools to really ensure that our metrics are being kept up by our customer adoption and risks are highlighted timely so that they can be addressed, and our customer success managers are engaged with customers like Lisa, CDW, and so many thousands of our customers in regular meetings, cadences. They also try to, like, allow transparency between customers, meaning that they can talk to each other, they can talk to our executives.
So, it’s an environment to nurture customer relationships, really.
Joe Thomas: Right. No, that’s great. Can you go into a little more detail? How is that customer success organization measured?
Asli Gulcur: Yeah. The customer success, the primary measure is the renewals. We really focus on renewals measured as attrition. That is a golden metric. Over time, it has evolved into, you know, annual order value and some other metrics like utilization rates, and so forth. But if you were to focus on one metric, it’s the renewal measured as attrition.
Joe Thomas: Okay. I already see - and it’s part of, at least, my talk track here - people are interested in the tools that are being used. Right? Obviously, we’re all using Salesforce on the front end or at the front office. I think everyone here is using FinancialForce PSA from the service piece. Are there other tools in use?
I guess, Lisa, I’ll go to you. I had one person ask are you using Salesforce CPQ on the front end? What are the tools people are using in general around service delivery, and then, I guess, specifically around their customer success orgs?
I don’t know. Maybe I’ll throw that to you, Patrick, and let you start with your thoughts, and then we’ll come back to Lisa and Asli on that.
Patrick Cherniawski: Yeah. It’s about collaboration for us, Joe. Right?
So, on the back end for the back-office tools, it’s obviously PSA, Salesforce. Right? We used Jira Cloud. But, from a collaboration perspective, we’re using Slack, we’re using Google. Right? You just have to have that kind of complete set of tools so that you can engage with a customer at all levels. You can engage at a document level, you can be live with them in a chat session. Right? You can be on Zoom or Go to Webinar or something like that with them and record those.
You need that full set of tools to be effective. I think different tools can be effective for different customers. That’s fine, but you need to cover all of your bases there, both from a reporting perspective, from a documentation perspective, and from an audio and visual collaboration perspective.
Joe Thomas: Yeah. Patrick, why don’t you talk a little about how Icon focuses on customer success?
Patrick Cherniawski: Yeah. So, I really see it from a best practices perspective, Joe. We do our best to kind of emulate the model that Salesforce has laid down, and FinancialForce has done a great job of adopting that as well. They’ve been early adopters and firm adopters of that Salesforce customer success model.
From my perspective, we aren’t early adopters of it. We came to it kind of a little bit later, but it’s really been truly a best practice for us. What I mean by that is when you look at process adoption or anything that’s new in your organization, right? You expect there to be a lift. You expect there to be a lag, that it takes some extra effort or it’s going to impact some other part of the organization negatively as you transition into that new process or something.
My observation of true best practices is that there’s no lift, there’s no lag. It’s just a natural fit, and it adds value immediately. That’s absolutely true of customer success.
So, when we started our customer success process, day one we saw benefit from it. For our organization, it very quickly went from a best practice to a leading practice. Right?
Joe Thomas: Great. Lisa, do you want to talk a little about some of the tools you use?
Lisa Evans: We’re pretty much in line with what Patrick’s team is using. Microsoft Teams, Sharepoint, PS FinancialForce, PSA, Salesforce. Those would be our tools.
Joe Thomas: Have you gone and built, I don’t know, specific, let’s say, dashboards around customer help or customer success?
Lisa Evans: We’ve done a couple of things that I’ll mention. I guess these are tools that we’ve created, if you will, using the platform.
Using cases in Salesforce, we built an SOW Queue (a Statement of Work Queue) for all of our engagements. So, anything that we are quoting to a customer and everybody on that journey - and part of being involved in that engagement - is part of this queue. That would be the solution architects scoping the PMs, any product people whose hardware is part of the deal. So, this SOW Queue has allowed us to be proactive, again, with, you know, pricing because everybody’s looking at it. It’s where we start our resource planning, and we assign our resources right at the case. That was really just, you know, taking cases and using it for something a little bit outside of the box. Again, you’re able to make that user interface all about what your company is used to seeing and using our lingo and our language and that sort of thing.
What we’re able to do from that, everything is linked from, you know, again, it's a customer opportunity to a case, and then that is an automatic click of a button and the project is set up, and people are assigned. It’s something that we are continuously improving on. What else can we do to…?
Technology can’t replace everything; we get that. You have to be very smart about this. So, all the tools that we do implement, and all the solutions that we implement, we make sure that it makes sense for the business, we know what the ROI is going to be, and it’s going to be something that the users are really going to appreciate. Again, you’re going to get that great user adoption rate right out of the gate.
Patrick Cherniawski: Can I elaborate on that, or can I extend that a little bit, Joe? Please?
Similar to what you did with Service Cloud, we did with PSA, Lisa. We took the issues object in PSA and extended it to manage tickets. So, we have this idea of a support ticket within our organization. So, we’ve reused that to manage support tickets. Right?
I think the focus of our efforts here - especially, most recently - is thinking about how do you manage all of this data? Right? When you’re doing work in multiple systems, then you have data in multiple systems and it becomes difficult to manage the data across multiple systems.
So, for us, it becomes an exercise in consolidation. Right? How do we move out of the Google Sheets? How do we move out of all the customer solutions into just a couple common solutions where I can do reporting across them? So, get everything into Salesforce. Get everything into FinancialForce. Right? So I can manage all of my data in one place.
I think that’s definitely a move that we’re making as an organization: trying to consolidate all of the different sources of data that we have and that we have to manage - especially like just requirements, the backlogs, things like that - to the extent that we can get those in one place (or two places, even) it makes us run more efficiently. Right? So, anything you can do to extend your processes and keep them in, and extend your solutions but keep your business processes in Salesforce and FinancialForce, I think, are for the good.
Joe Thomas: Great.
Lisa Evans: I couldn’t agree more.
Joe Thomas: Asli, I’m going to come back to you for tools, but the questions are coming in faster than I can even see them. They’re scrolling off the piece here. But I’ve got one here that is on… I think, Patrick and Lisa, this might be more applicable to you. It was on process flows. Right?
So, the question is: when you implemented PSA, did you re-engineer your processes or just follow the FinancialForce PSA process flow? I guess, Patrick, you could talk about what you do, what you’ve done, and specifically what you did with Lisa.
Patrick Cherniawski: Yeah. Let me go first. I’ll let Lisa talk about what we did for her because I think she can say it better than I can. But we started with out of the box, honestly. So, our journey was to take what PSA gave us and use it and learn from it, and then kind of change it from there. That’s worked really well for us. Right? So, there’s a great benefit to, if you can - not everyone can do this. But, to the extent that you can accept kind of more of a standard business process in PSA, there’s a rule of thumb that I’ve heard. I’m actually a believer in this: that for every $3 that you would spend in defining a process, in your initial project you would only find $1 defining that same process after you’re live. Right?
That’s because you know your system better now. You know your process better. You know how it’s realized in the solution, you know how it's better realized in Salesforce. So, it’s actually much more efficient to go live on a phase one, cut down on as much as you can, and then come back with a backlog and implement the backlog. It’s going to be more effective and less expensive.
That kind of comes back to the digital journey. Right? Recognize that you can’t do it all at once - you shouldn’t try to do it all at once. So, do what you need to do today, and then have a plan to continue to grow and improve in the future.
Joe Thomas: Great. Lisa, that’s what happened just for you. Right?
Lisa Evans: Absolutely. When we started with… Right out of the box, I don’t think there was anything we changed for probably, I would say, a solid year until, really, the only thing that we changed was the way that we… Again, it was the way that we were planning our revenue that we’re still doing today. It was because we were too immature; we didn’t know then what our PS business was going to look like in the future. We didn’t know what billable utilization was. Nobody in our organization understood that until we started to grow. Now, you know, you go from $7 million into over $40 million per year in service and then some.
Now, like I said, we have an entire RMO. Everything is literally focused around the solution. It becomes a matter of where do we need to gain in efficiency? Where do we need to improve a process? In answer to that question, it is reengineered in the tool. It always comes down to how can we address this business requirement that we have. Number one, can we do it in the Salesforce platform? Because all of the data is there and that is our customer-centric tool - and all the data is there. Even for our product side of the business, but I don’t speak to that as much because being in professional services, it’s an entirely different ballgame. But everything comes down to can it be done in the system and how? How are we going to benefit from it? That’s how we look at every process.
Again, you know, to Patrick’s point, you can’t do everything at one time. It depends on the approach that you take internally because no solution provider can force your hand to make sure that you do your needs assessments that you need to, that you have the right people at the table. These are all the things that are so important.
But, again, it comes down to having this incredible tool, and we’re now introducing it to our manage services business. So, we’re going to look about onboarding our MS business to this tool and see how that will look. That’s sort of next on the list.
Some of these things come up right out of the blue. Some of them… We have a lot that is planned for this fiscal, but we have other burning priorities because we have a terrible - well, we have a lackluster system to manage our manage services business. I know we can do it in Salesforce and PSA. I’m not sure exactly what all the ins and outs on that side of the business are, but I know we can do it. So, that’s something we’re going to look at now. That’s a pretty big deal. That’s saying a lot: that you have that much faith and that much confidence in the system.
Again, it all comes down to user adoption. We have lost people because of tools that were inefficient and we weren’t migrating enough.
When we were acquired by CDW - the company I used to work for - that’s a whole new ballgame when you get acquired and you have to lose tools that you’re used to.
Joe Thomas: Save that thought. We’ll get to that. We’ll get to that in the last topic.
In my effort to be customer-centric, I kind of took us down the process path because there were a bunch of questions from the audience.
Asli, I want to give you a final chance to sort of wrap up any thoughts you have around customer success orgs, around the tools that you use, and I'll throw a question at you. Are you doing anything differently for your service delivery side of the house at Salesforce that you do maybe for the product side?
Asli Gulcur: Yeah. I mean, Joe, as I imagine, we use Salesforce technology to run Salesforce. So, we have tools built into our system monitoring customer success-related metrics (from utilization, adoption, to renewal dates and so forth).
In terms of the service side, yes. We have advisor services, we have professional services - that is in addition to our solution product side. That could be different.
But I just want to go back to what Lisa said about the benefits of the solution because I think it came throughout the conversation. One was high adoption. The other one was a fast time to value. You know, because it comes together with lots of out-of-the-box functionality. It’s user-friendly. It’s not only user-friendly, but it’s also mobile. You have a mobile instance immediately. I think that’s a really important thing in today’s remote, virtual world, that we see this thing being a really, really important ask or need by our clients. It comes with the solution itself, the mobile capability.
I think I would say the third thing is - again, what Lisa said about this - can we do the solution? Can we address it within Salesforce? The fact that it’s a click “no-code” or “low code” is very important in today’s world, too, because as Lisa said, I didn’t know a year later what the business would be like. So, in this kind of a changing market environment when we’re disrupted so heavily by the pandemic and then everything is changing, technology has been moving fast. Business models are changing. You really need to have an agile infrastructure, agile operating model. I think that’s what Salesforce brings to the table, too, to get rid of this ecosystem. That you have this agile development capability to meet the changing business needs, changing market needs.
So, I just want to pull it together because I’ve been really listening intently, and these are important points that we’re also observing across the board.
Joe Thomas: Great. Asli, I’m going to stay with you as we transition to this third topic. I know you actually have some pretty interesting survey data you’ve done around customer expectations and engagement. What would you share is the impact of user experience on employee and customer engagement?
Asli Gulcur: Yeah. We do surveys on a yearly (annual) basis across thousands of our customers to understand what impact our solution delivers for them after the deployment of their solutions, and we focus on the business impact. You know, from customer satisfaction to employee satisfaction to revenue and cost-related metrics.
In terms of customer satisfaction, let me just pull up some figures. I mean, I’m not going to go one at a time because they’re all above… When we surveyed the customer experience, we’ve seen that 76% of customers expect consistent interaction at gross departments, talking about experience. It’s the consistent interaction that is enabled by that single source of truth, that data that Lisa reports again, that you have all data in one place, that they want a seamless experience, that that percentage has been increasing.
85% of the buyers expect next to no to have a firm understanding of their business environment, their customers. Again, that whole single source of truth concept plays into that.
The other thing that's important, together with the service concept here, is that 83% of the customers expect immediate contact with someone to address their business problems. When they contact and there’s a significant percentage uplift when you think about pre-Covid versus now.
Joe Thomas: Right.
Asli Gulcur: So, the need to address - to have a solution, a sustainable solution to address customers contacting you and your ability to respond to solve their cases, there’s high pressure. It’s intensifying on top.
Then, almost 80% of the customers prefer different channels of engagement. This omnichannel concept is really strong.
Joe Thomas: Yeah. We’ll share. I’ll make sure that we share the link out to that survey. I was surprised when you shared those numbers with me. Just, obviously, customers expect software providers, you know, service providers, service delivery providers to get their house in order. I was stunned by how high that was. Right? And the shifts, as you mentioned, from 2019 to 2020 in terms of the…
Asli Gulcur: I think that’s the interesting part. Like, that’s the interesting part. Like, common sense and logically, you would expect high results anyways, I think, on customer expectations. But the shift, the acceleration, of expectations is the interesting part here.
Joe Thomas: As we know, not easy to do. Right? To get all that data in order. It helps to have an ecosystem/platform in which your front and back office are sharing the same data, are leveraging those pieces, are providing an interesting user experience, let’s say, for both employees and customers.
Asli Gulcur: Yeah, and streamline the information. Sorry, Joe.
Streamline the information. Really, streamlining handovers from one department to another, to really go through the process in an automated and efficient way to get back to address the business solution or business needs.
Joe Thomas: Lisa, do you have any thoughts in that regard?
Lisa Evans: Definitely. Like, when we talk user-experience, I think it’s probably the most success I’ve ever seen with any kind of tool across such a large organization, in our case. That user experience… If your users are happy, your customers are happy. So, that adoption and that retention are really key for us.
I also find that our experience as a customer to FinancialForce - like, we leverage the FinancialForce community all the time. It’s a phenomenal source of information of people who are going through the exact same things that you’re going through if you’re implementing PSA or any of the other products. It’s a world of information for best practices and that sort of thing, and just having that available to us has saved us so much time when it comes to addressing the next implementation or reengineering a process.
Again, working with a solution provider like Icon - and I come from that world. So, I’ve seen it from both sides, and I set a pretty high bar for our solution providers. When we initially implemented FinancialForce here in Canada, Icon was in the US. So, there was no option for them to be sitting beside me, holding my hand. But it was such an incredible experience. It was literally the first 100% remote implementation that I had ever done as a customer, and the experience was incredible. It set me up for success, just like this tool does.
That’s the thing. Like, just my department alone, we are just so known for being efficient and we never say no. All of that data. My biggest challenge is getting the word out to everybody in the organization about the kind of data that we have at our hands that they can be looking at to make critical business decisions. That’s one of the things that we’re doing now: collaboration with other users and with other departments, and we’re getting in front of them to say, “Look, this is what we do over here in our little PS opps world. If you’re ever looking for data, it’s here. We can help you.” That is probably our biggest challenge: getting the word out to such a large audience and so many different audiences across an organization to let them know, like, you have no idea. We’re sitting on a gold mine. How do we get you guys to now take this data and take these processes and, you know, run with it?
I’m always sitting… I’ll now present to our sales department. I’m trying to figure out ways, the quickest and the best user experience for them to get results on the service side of their business. That’s a huge… Again, I consider that customer-centric because if our sales reps are ahead of the game and we can let them know where they are in an engagement and if it looks like we need to sell more services to them. Again, we’re proactive. They’re servicing the customers better that way.
Joe Thomas: Great. Patrick, I know you have some thoughts on this.
Patrick Cherniawski: I have a lot to say about this, Joe.
I’ve been thinking about this for a little while. I was going to save the best for last, but I’m not. I’m going to lead with the best here.
For me, having good customer experience is the bottom line about keeping your software up to date, about being on the latest version of the software. Right? If you think about it, it’s really logical. All the changes, all the new features and enhancements that come out within Salesforce and FinancialForce are driven by customer requests. These are all things that customers want. Why not use them? Why not adopt them? Right?
I’ll give you a fantastic example. It’s the workspaces feature in FinancialForce. This is really awesome innovation. Right? There was a gap in the architecture where it was difficult to visualize data across multiple objects. Right? Unless you did it in VisualForce. FinancialForce came to the table and they said, “Hey, we’re going to fill this gap. We’re going to create this workspaces feature that allows the different rules and the different users to be able to work across business records that represent multiple objects from multiple objects.”
They rolled this out across the last two years and it’s a phenomenal feature. It’s very highly adopted by our customers.
So, for everyone out there who’s not using workspaces, you’re not getting the best customer experience for your users right now. You’ve got to get this stuff. Right?
There’s more here, too, Joe. Right?
Joe Thomas: Yeah. I’m going to let you keep talking about the great [crosstalk]. Talk as long as you want. I’ve got some other questions, too, but go on.
Patrick Cherniawski: Yeah. The user experience, to me, has kind of a couple of other aspects to it. One aspect is communities. Right?
So, three years ago about, our average project… In fact, we rarely had a communities component to our projects. Right? This year, we’re running about 50%. So, when you think about user experience - just like Lisa was saying - it’s not just about employees using it. It’s about customers, it’s about vendors, it’s about partners and their experience. So, think more globally. Right? That’s important.
The second aspect of this is to think in terms of extending the ecosystem - the FinancialForce infrastructure - to its logical limit. Take advantage of those ISC partners and vendors out there that really supercharge FinancialForce in those very specific areas. Asperato is a great example of this. Right?
So, if you think in terms of marrying, let’s say, Asperato and communities (customer communities), you get an excellent customer experience around payments, for example. That’s the direction you want to think about when you’re thinking about customer experience. Take advantage of all these things.
Joe Thomas: Great. Hey, you actually triggered something that was one of these audience questions. They directed it to Salesforce, but I think we could probably talk about it. It was, “How does Salesforce address customer questions or enhancement ideas?”
I don’t know if, Asli, you want to start with that, and then maybe we can jump in?
Asli Gulcur: Customer questions.
Joe Thomas: How do you create customer feedback and leverage inside your product and service delivery organizations?
Asli Gulcur: Yeah. I mean, we have ongoing innovations. Like, we update our solutions three times a year. It’s a huge undertaking, but it’s been a sustainable part of our company culture and go-to-market strategy for the last 22 years. In those innovations, in those capable to upgrade, we take in that feedback that we are gathering from the clients directly - our customers directly. You know, our account teams work hand-to-hand with the clients. Our customer success organization is in close contact with clients. We have regular quarterly business reviews in addition to unofficial day-to-day contacts. So, we provide that feedback back to our product teams. In addition to their market research, we have that direct customer feedback back to the organization.
Joe Thomas: Yeah. One thing that I see Salesforce doing is the concept of ideas they put out. It, to some extent, becomes a democracy. Right? It goes out to the ecosystem and we vote on is this something that should be high priority, moderate/medium priority, lower priority. I love being able to give that direct customer feedback to Salesforce and to see it actually in action. To see am I an outlier on something or am I right in the heart of what’s going on?
Asli Gulcur: The transparency, yeah. The transparency that we all appreciate, all stakeholders appreciate.
But on that point that you’re making, your own app exchange that we have an incredible ecosystem with our partners, we foster innovation through that as well. Like, if there’s internal innovation, external innovation. It’s all based on market feedback. We get the feedback, we lead with innovation internally and externally.
Patrick Cherniawski: Can I build on that for a second, Joe?
Joe Thomas: Please.
Patrick Cherniawski: There’s a cool, new solution out in app exchange I just want to mention. It’s called Sunrise HCM. It’s basically payroll on Salesforce for the US. What better way? What better solution to integrate with PSA and FinancialForce accounting? Holy cow. Right?
If you think about the whole back office, getting HCM there in payroll is huge. I know that’s a pain point - right? - for all the FFA users out there and even some of the PSA users out there. It’s how do they get their data into payroll?
So, talk about innovation on a Salesforce platform. That’s a big one for me.
Joe Thomas: Patrick, I don’t know if you were watching the questions, but there was a question about HCM in Payroll. I was going to get to it at the end. There’s actually quite a few integration questions. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get to them all. I’m capturing them, we’re recording them, so we’ll be able to… I think I’m probably going to throw a lot of those back to you, Patrick, and we’ll see if we can’t get those answered going forward.
Patrick Cherniawski: Perfect.
Joe Thomas: I am going to put us on our last slide here because we’ve got four minutes left. You have our contact information here. That’s for those integration questions to the ecosystem; I’m going to have you contact Patrick directly. I saw Theresa and Jamie. A bunch of people asked a bunch of questions. You’ll be able to ping Patrick or any of us directly. Those are our email addresses. We’re very interested in furthering the discussion.
I do want to catch some of these other ones, unless, Lisa, you had some thoughts on the last question. If not, I can go to the next one. It was on time to value. I think this was something played off from something Asli said.
Basically, the questioner is asking, “How do you measure time to value?”
Asli Gulcur: That’s a very good question. First is the implementation, to begin with. We see it as an advantage. The time, on average, I’ve been involved with a couple of projects right now with accounts, it’s around six months to nine months. It’s very different.
I have a computer science background, and I know I’ve been in the industry for about 20 years (20+ years). So, I am used to other projects that last a couple of years - multi-year projects. Phase one, phase two, phase three. This is a huge paradigm shift. You get actual capabilities rolled out to deliver business value in six months. It’s incredible, really. I mean, you build on that. You get to the benefits. You get to the benefits of your solution that makes the difference on your financial metrics starting in six months.
I’m using six months as an average, or like a reference figure. Don’t hold me to it. Disclaimer! But that’s what we mean. You get to the capabilities, the benefits.
Joe Thomas: Great. Anybody else on time to value?
Lisa Evans: Just to elaborate on that, the benefits that we see when we do roll out a huge initiative… We have a staff augmentation business. So, we have, at any given time, a hundred independent contractors who are entering time in our system and are invoicing us. They have to be paid twice a month. That manual effort was horrendous. So, we now have them entering their invoices directly into the system - which is out of the box. Like I said, I don’t want Patrick to even know the number of out-of-box functions that we have yet to implement because it seems almost endless when it comes to PSA.
Again, it comes down to - and I’ll keep saying this - user adoption. If you can get the people interested or excited about the system that they use and it makes their lives easier, any time you roll out some new function to add to that, it’s seamless and it’s not a huge, monstrous undertaking at all. I can literally roll out functionality for some of the things that we’ve done in a matter of days, once it’s built and ready to go.
Joe Thomas: Are you quantifying what that rollout means? I know there’s a bunch of follow-up questions. We’re not going to be able to get to this. But, you know, is that one of the ways you’re defining time to value? It’s like I roll out a feature that solves a pain or takes a manual process out?
Lisa Evans: Absolutely. That invoicing was the perfect example. Like, that billing module, we had Icon involved in that because it was entirely different to anything that we were used to. The great thing about Icon is that they have every specialist on the team. So, we worked with their accounting specialist to roll that out. Like, I literally had the CEO of the company come to me and say, “We cannot wait three weeks to get invoices out the door. What can you do for me?” Here you go. Here’s my business case. It took ten minutes to put together. Boom. We implemented it. The financers - the financial back-end - I didn’t even have to be involved in it, fortunately. Icon took care of it. It wasn’t a huge undertaking with our finance department. There were just a few key pieces of data that they needed to track, and we were invoicing 100 invoices with a click of a button. It was insane!
It’s almost like people don’t believe you because they’re just like, “Nothing can be that easy.” Yeah, it kind of can.
Joe Thomas: Wow. I think I’m going to…
Patrick Cherniawski: Time to value is a partnership. Right? So, we can’t force you to adopt a solution. We can’t build a solution that you’re not going to use. It’s a partnership. The sooner we connect, the sooner we get a cadence, the sooner we get that relationship built, the sooner you’re going to get your solution, the sooner you can decide what you want, the sooner you’re going to get your solutions. It’s got to be a partnership.
Joe Thomas: Thank you, Patrick.
As I expected, an hour wasn’t enough here. We’re already pushing past it. I do want to be cognizant of the time. I want to thank all of our attendees. Thanks for sticking with us and having those great questions. I want to thank our panelists. They were gracious enough to provide their contact information to you, the attendees. If you didn’t get your question answered, if you wanted to dive deeper into something someone said, please use our emails and contact us. But I do want to thank each of our panelists here very much on the engaging, interesting conversation. I think we could have taken another hour if we’d blocked off the time.
So, thank you very much, and thank you all for participating.