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Salesforce wants to deliver your sales, service and marketing experiences through a single platform

Omar Akhtar
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff

Recognizing a customer across all interactions with a brand is a difficult, but worthy endeavor. Salesforce just made it a little easier to achieve.

At its Connections conference in New York today, Salesforce unveiled a slew of new features and integrations to its Journey Builder platform. These updates effectively make it the tool that unites operations across all of Salesforce’s main applications. In addition to marketing, users can now create customer experiences across sales, service and custom apps in Journey Builder, making it a one-stop shop for managing customer touchpoints.

“Marketers now have an unprecedented opportunity to engage customers at every step of their journey,” said Scott McCorkle, CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud. “The next generation of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud uniquely helps companies take action on data from any customer interaction to deliver the right content at the right time across every channel.”

New features:

The way Journey Builder works is by creating a path for the customer journey, anticipating certain actions and delivering specific experiences when those actions are taken. Before, those experiences were only limited to marketing-specific triggers, such as a customer viewing a display ad, downloading a piece of content, or browsing a website. Now, those trigger actions can come from the realms of sales and service, for example, an unhappy customer lodging a complaint with customer service, or a sales lead expressing a negative sentiment on social.

Put simply, a marketer can now create a unique experience for each customer, whether it’s sending them an email, showing them a display ad, or giving them a discount, all based on whatever interaction they have had with the brand, across any touchpoint.

In each case, the Journey Builder user can access Salesforce objects like contacts, leads, accounts and cases, as well as custom objects, all without having to leave the platform. Those elements can be added directly into the customer journey being designed with a simple drag-and-drop functionality, which in itself is the biggest incentive Salesforce has created for using its applications ecosystem, instead of a stack of integrated outside solutions.

In addition, Salesforce is launching an update to its Active Audiences ad platform, which uses CRM data to create and target audience segments across a variety of digital networks. This update extends the scope of Active Audiences across display ad networks and social media networks through several partnerships. But more importantly, through a full integration with Journey Builder, it allows users to sync their paid advertising with their customer experience operations. This means Active Audiences can launch digital advertising based on the customer’s entire experience with a brand - the emails and mobile messages they open, their purchase history, their engagement with the customer service team and where they are in a sales cycle.

Our take:

This is a welcome set of integrations from Salesforce, as we believe delivering a unified customer experience across all brand touchpoints is the way forward. As always, Salesforce delivers the capabilities in a simple, intuitive user interface within Journey Builder. There are however, a few limitations still remaining in Journey Builder, such as the ability to push content and messaging across social channels (although you can still use it for listening.) It also lacks the predictive capabilities that Adobe Marketing Cloud that give estimates for the success of planned customer journeys.

However, the biggest issue has less to do with Salesforce’s platform, and more with the people using it. By taking a marketing tool, and making it the hub of all customer experience management, Salesforce could become the field for a battle of wills between sales, service and marketing. After all, the question of “who owns the customer experience” is one companies are increasingly struggling with, especially in the digital age. How comfortable would the head of service be with someone from marketing orchestrating messages for their department? Or a salesperson might want more control over mapping the customer journey since they know most about what will eventually get them to convert. For its part, Salesforce is clear that it wants the experience to be managed by the marketer.

“Marketers are put in the role as a consensus builder across the organization, it’s their job is to go to all these different areas of the business and figure out how to do things in a unified approach,” said Meghan York-Meenan, director of product marketing at Salesforce Marketing Cloud.  “Organizationally marketers are on the hook to lead that charge, and now they have the platform to execute.”

That makes sense in theory, but in practice, we expect it’ll be a while before companies embrace a “chief experience officer” for whom this platform is tailormade.