Business leaders around the globe are facing a unique moment in time where the role that business can play in society, and the expectation to balance financial return with social impact, is greater than ever
COP26 was a reminder that businesses, governments and many other organisations today are facing a crucial moment for transformation at the leadership level. Shareholder capitalism is coming to an end and although this historic economic model is far from being formally replaced by stakeholder capitalism, it’s becoming increasingly clear that one can’t exist without the other.
Most businesses now acknowledge that simply offering superior products and services is not enough to secure the loyalty of customers. If they are to build brands underpinned by trust and transparency, they must align with causes their customers care about. They must balance product and purpose without being purely transactional.
Take the environment as an example. In a recent Salesforce State of Commerce report, more than 50% of leaders said that trust, sustainability, equality and employee wellbeing are essential to them. This is a clear indication that great leadership is stretching far beyond delivering growth and profit alone.
“At Salesforce, we consider the environment to be a key stakeholder,” says Sally Nowroozi, CX evangelist at Salesforce. “Our environmental programme focuses on the global journey to net-zero emissions, mobilising the global effort to see an additional 1 trillion trees on Earth, and protecting and revitalising our oceans. Last year we also launched the Salesforce Sustainability Cloud to support other organisations with a carbon-accounting product for businesses and governments to help track and manage their greenhouse gas emissions.
“We believe businesses are the greatest platforms for change. However, we have seen across sectors that trusted enterprises are those that not only do the right thing but also tell a story that resonates with customers. They use technology innovations such as customer data platform, personalisation and marketing automation to deliver messages to their communities that are relevant and timely. The urgency for a holistic digital transformation, and the transformation of company culture, has never been more pressing.”
To be truly in sync with the communities they serve and able to tell a story that resonates, brands need a sharp focus on data analytics and measurement, but informing smarter decisions in this way is one of the hardest parts. Marketers use an average of 13 different platforms in their tech stack to advertise, engage customers, deliver web and mobile experiences, drive conversations and more. Data is siloed across different systems, formats and reports, often leaving marketers trying to manually collect, connect and analyse it to understand customers.
For this reason, marketing leaders must think carefully about the biases engrained in how data is gathered, analysed and activated. It’s clear the nature of how decisions are made and implemented has radically changed, so how brands use technology must change too. The right technology offers marketers the time and bandwidth to capitalise on changing customer demands, socioeconomic circumstances and market opportunities, both in terms of efficiency and growth.
“Customer data is only as good as the action it informs,” says Nowroozi. “Seeing the humans behind numbers can be hard work but when a marketing team is empathetic and adaptable they can take on this challenge. We’ve already seen many of our customers do this, with businesses rallying and coming together to find solutions and doing it in record time. Having a data-driven and inclusive approach is important here. Understanding data can effectively help support the shifts required in marketing strategies and create compelling content that reaches people’s head and heart.”
We know that no matter how they interact with a brand, customers ultimately want to be known and understood, not as the buyer of a specific product or service but as a person with a unique and evolving set of needs. Eight out of 10 customers told a Salesforce study that a company’s customer experience is just as important as its products and services.
Businesses can offer more contextually aware, personalised services by building a 360-degree view of every customer with data. This can be achieved through the vast number of data points available that chart every engagement they have had with a brand. Access to these customer insights, often powered by AI, allows marketers to create a more connected and enriched customer experience. Personalisation also encourages customers to view brands and their employees as trusted advisors, achieving further trust through brand loyalty and advocacy.
On the day the Covid crisis triggered an extensive ban on all US flights last year, a Salesforce expert taskforce met with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to help alleviate the immediate pressure on its customer service function. In the months following the restrictions, KLM ran training sessions to upskill colleagues, quickly scaling the customer support capacity from around 350 agents to more than 1,000 across the company. Thanks to its unique customer-centric culture, the airline dealt with the crisis by building more resilience into its systems and people.
“At KLM we value our customers and we value each other, so we pulled together and even had cabin crew and pilots handling cases when they weren’t flying,” says Wijnand de Groot, vice-president of digital marketing at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. “Although the amount of enquiries increased tenfold, the data gathered across digital channels also became an important source of truth for the management in the first weeks of the crisis. With a dedicated team pulling reports and dashboards daily we could make smarter business decisions based on the topics that were trending.”
The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of all areas of society and we’re not going back. Successful leaders will continue to rely heavily on data in their decision-making, leaning on a company’s biggest assets - customer trust and an empowered workforce - to keep building the brands we love.
For more information please visit salesforce.com/uk/form/state-of-marketing
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