Despite what Marc Benioff Says, the Microsoft and Salesforce Alliance Does Nothing to “Put the Customer First”

The CRM industry has looked curiously at a recent announcement that Salesforce.com and Microsoft have formed a deeper relationship. These strange bedfellows haven’t played nice in the past, with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff as recently as January stating Microsoft lacked vision and was “a follower, not a leader.” What’s more, there’s no word on what this agreement means for the future of Microsoft Dynamics.

Benioff insisted that “today is about putting the customer first.” Unfortunately, he’s talking about Microsoft and Salesforce clients, not the end-customer engaged with customer service. Their integration effort is unlikely to advance the cause of delivering great customer service, because it’s likely to complicate, not simplify, the agent experience. Here’s why:

More platforms

A primary productivity troublemaker for today’s customer service representatives is the proliferation of different platforms. Separate applications for customer data, knowledge management, billing systems, and other back office connections have forced service reps to wear out their “alt+tab” keys navigating their cluttered screens. Integrations between Salesforce and Office in the front, and Azure and OneDrive and Sharepoint in the back, all run the risk of adding to that complexity.

A stronger customer service solution should make it easier, not harder, to coordinate between legacy platforms. It should be flexible enough to change as those integration points change over time. That way, customer service agents can focus on helping the customer, vs. wrestling with their system.

Information overload

Another reason agent productivity suffers is the overload of information. A 360-degree view of the customer does not equate to better handle times on its own. It’s still up to the agent to troubleshoot, relying on past experience, tribal knowledge, searching internal documentation, or simply trial and error.

A stronger customer service solution should go beyond that 360 view of the customer. It simplifies the agent experience by providing intelligent guidance, prompting them with recommended “next best actions.” It gives the agents those recommendations not only based on customer data but also based on the current customer situation and the goals of the business. That way, agents can give the most relevant and appropriate answers to customers.

Channel-centric, not customer-centric

It’s clear that mobile and Cloud technologies have become important for customer service organizations. Certainly the trend is for consumer adoption of smart phones to continue rising, with plenty of room for further growth. And, many companies have underinvested in delivering great service experience via mobile. So with Windows phones having only a sliver of global smartphone operating systems, it makes sense that Microsoft wants to make its mobile devices more appealing by removing any barriers to adoption. Meanwhile, on the Cloud side, investing in Azure could potentially give Salesforce an opportunity to address its scalability issues. These scalability issues limit Salesforce’s appeal to larger customer service organizations.

With the attention on mobile and Cloud technologies, it’s terribly tempting for today’s enterprises to get tunnel vision. They create teams focused on delivering a mobile app, or to rush into a Cloud deployment, and in the process create silos that fracture the customer experience.

A stronger customer service solution focuses on delivering the best customer experience first, rather than sinking valuable time and effort into one-off revisions to individual channels. Our CEO Alan Trefler describes this situation in his upcoming book, Build for Change. Enterprises shouldn’t be blinded by a mobile-first or Cloud-first approach. Instead, they should lay down a strong, model-driven architecture foundation to support any and all devices and channels. That way, they can ensure consistency for customers, regardless of how they choose to engage.