March 05, 2014

Happy 15th Birthday to Salesforce.com from Extreme Networks!

As salesforce.com celebrates its 15th birthday, I am reminded of how we as a company have been able to leverage technology, and particularly cloud services, to help us move from a transaction to engagement based relationship with our customers. Luckily, we are the right size company to be able to rapidly investigate and deploy new technologies to enable the business. I’m hopeful that our experience will serve as an example for others to compete smartly against competitors who are much larger.

I feel that a customer-focused culture needs a pragmatic and innovative mindset that emphasizes value and execution velocity as part of the technology evaluation and adoption processes. We were in fact an early adopter of Salesforce 11 years ago.  Since 2003 our company has been on a path to becoming a much more agile business through the use of cloud, mobile, and social technologies.  Throughout this transformation I have seen our customer-first focus as the driving force.

With Salesforce as the central hub, our marketing team has invested heavily in cloud and social technologies to advance our company’s brand. Our online community platform, based on Get Satisfaction, integrates seamlessly with Salesforce and our Marketo marketing automation system, to provide a 360 degree view into our customers. We use this insight to inspire product ideas, generate authentic word of mouth marketing content and continue to provide award-winning customer service and support. In addition, we’re able to leverage Radian6 to determine how we can successfully drive the conversation online and proactively react to customer sentiment and measure our influence on key topics and at industry events.

As noted by JP Rangaswami, Chief Scientist at salesforce.com, who I had the pleasure of interviewing as part of my weekly CXO Talk webcast, in this hyper-connected world there is an increased demand on companies to respond and adapt in real-time to customers.  In order to meet this demand companies need to provide customers with a better experience based on differentiation of service quality.

Successful service organizations must leverage predictive analytics to go from a defensive stance to one based on an offensive mindset. As an example, CRM-based advanced predictive analytics are able to provide unparalleled proactive customer service. Using a weighted sum algorithm based on customer contact, type of contract (case, escalation and product returns trending), as well customer satisfaction scores and history, we can proactively predict customer satisfaction and alert the appropriate management team to take proactive measures when necessary. Contact center professionals can see the ‘customer temperature gauge’ embedded in the CRM solution and take immediate action. That’s a “customer first” service methodology.

Our sales and services teams have been awarded with 10 Stevie Awards over the past three years – more than any of our competitors. Just recently, this included the prestigious Gold Stevie award for Contact Center of the Year for 2014. This year we also received three Silver Stevie awards for the Best Use of Technology in Sales, Customer Service Training Team of the Year and the award for Innovation in Customer Service. These accomplishments are due in part to the smart technology decisions we have made as a company, with Salesforce at the heart of it.

There is also a bottom line benefit in leveraging new tools and processes to increase our pipeline and overall success. It was with that mindset that we set out on our Sales 2.0 program, which is powered by social and cloud solutions, leveraging social networking to greatly improve the sales and marketing processes. The culmination was a prestigious Forrester Groundswell Award in the Business-to-Employee Collaboration category, competing with 150 entries from around the world.

Despite already having a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 82 percent, we continue to strive to increase customer loyalty and customer satisfaction and our use of innovative cloud and social technologies are a big part of making that happen.

About The Contributor:
Vala AfsharChief Marketing Officer

Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) is the Chief Marketing Officer for Extreme Networks, responsible for global marketing. An award-winning inventor of social technologies and customer services operations, Afshar is a two-time Stevie Award winner stemming from his previous leadership of the company's Support organization, and is considered a pioneer in cloud computing, social collaboration, business intelligence and customer relationship management. Afshar is a recognized social media advocate, having been the keynote of several industry events including Salesforce’s Dreamforce, as well as Gartner and IDC conferences. His thought-leadership has been sought after by leading publications, and he regularly contributes bylines to Huffington Post, Inc., and InformationWeek, among others. To his credit, Vala was recently named by Leadtail as "the most retweeted B2B marketer." He is also the co-host of the weekly "CXO Talk" interview series, where he interviews C-level thought leaders from companies such as Accenture, SAP and Intel.

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