Marc Benioff: The Internet of Things will herald the Internet of Customers

Stuart Lauchlan
co-founder
diginomica
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“At Salesforce we pivot to our customers," said Marc Benioff in his Dreamforce keynote, sporting possibly his most distractingly outlandish bespoke Loboutin sneakers to date.  "Customers have the answers. There's never been a more important time to listen and engage with your customers."

With Salesforce.com now styling itself as The Customer Company and the strapline for Dreamforce itself being The Internet of Customers, there was always going to be a drill-down focus on the firm’s CRM centre with new versions of Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and the formal release of the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud all thrown into the product pitch mix.

But before the hard sell kicked off on Day 3 of the conference, there was time on Day 2 to paint with some broader brushstrokes.

Of particular worry to Benioff was what he sees as the old hat notion of B2C standing for business to consumer.

"In the world of the Internet of Customers, consumers get transformed into customers,” he declared.

Basically Benioff isn’t getting the personal attention he wants for himself as customer. Citing a visit to his alma mater, University of Southern California, he complained: "The last time I went there, my phone didn't light up with the USC fight song and say, 'Hi Marc’. But it should have."

This has to change, he stated. "In this new world, I'm going to have a one-to-one relationship with USC," he said. "The only question is, are you ready to make that change for your customers?

“The term B2C makes the customer anonymous. It shouldn’t be business to consumer, it should be business to customer.”

The Internet of Things

It’s all about the connected nature of the famed Internet of Things and how that’s going to change the nature of customer engagement.

"Everything is going to be on the net”,  Benioff went on. “At the moment I get into the bookstore, I buy the books, but I get no reward because nobody knows who I am. But I will, because it doesn't matter what industry you're in, your industry will transform.”

It’s the same with toothbrushes he added, brandishing his Philips Sonicare toothbrush to make his point. It’s GPS enabled and “It knows how I’m brushing, how I’m holding it, where it is in the world,” explained the Salesforce.com CEO. “When I go to my dentist’s office, he isn’t going to say, ‘Did you brush?’ He’s going to say, ‘What’s your log-in to your Philips account?’

“It’s going to require a new level of trust with my dentist,” he added. “It’s a whole new world with my dentist.”

The Salesforce.com spin on Internet of Things is to talk about the Internet of Customers, to see the people behind the connected devices. "Behind every tweet that happens on Twitter, behind every post that happens on Facebook, behind every one of our devices and wearables, every one of our mobile devices, don't forget, there's a customer," Benioff said. "In the world of the Internet of Things, it's really an Internet of Customers. We need to reassess how we connect with our customers in a whole new way."

He added: "It's one of the reasons we bought ExactTarget [a digital marketing firm Salesforce acquired in July 2013 for $2.5bn]. This is the power of this idea. It's a phenomenal time, and we're moving into this new place. We all have a need to become a customer company."

Salesforce1

All of which brings him around to Salesforce1, a mobile first revision of the company’s portfolio of offerings that consolidates all of Salesforce.com’s major apps, like its flagship cloud service for salespeople, its chat app Chatter, the ExactTarget service for running email/mobile campaigns.

“We are bringing all of your investment, all of your code, everything you’ve done with us into the present,” said Benioff, boasting that the app is so powerful that he now runs Salesforce.com using only his phone. “I do not carry a laptop any more. I’ve been doing this for the last 9 months as I’ve tested the product,” he said. “We call this Phone First.”

Salesforce1 is available immediately, but users of Salesforce.com’s Chatter collaboration tool have been part of the beta programme for the offering for some time without knowing it.

“As Salesforce1 started to evolve we could see that the Salesforce1 client was going to replace Chatter,” recalled Benioff. “When it got to the point that it was going everything that Chatter was doing we replaced it with Salesforce1 but still called it Chatter.

“We did it at the dead of night and didn’t tell anyone. We suddenly started to see 5 star reviews on the AppStore. We were biting our tongues as we were using the AppStore as a secret beta test.

“Chatter is still the collaboration platform underneath but it’s an entirely different architecture. Last night we changed the label and called it Salesforce1.”

In conclusion, it’s all about the customer. Benioff argued his ambition is simple enough: “The customer just wants to succeed and be served. We want to build the best technology to serve customers. We want to be an advocate for companies to become customer companies.”

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