Kyle Aulerich

Kyle Aulerich

A little about the author

Technology focused CEO with 10+ years Salesforce experience. Focused primarily on helping organizations make the most of their Salesforce investment. I've operated within the most regulated industries and new trend markets available, and have a passion to help teams become more successful within their organizations.

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Service and Sales in 2017 – the customer at the center.

Remember when customer service was viewed as a cost item? It’s certainly never been given a seat at the revenue table or considered a growth – not significantly, anyhow. Well, until now.

Your customer service team doesn’t just solve problems anymore. If you still think of service as an irate customer dialing a hotline, and being soothed by a representative trained to read from a data sheet, you should know that the depth and goals of customer service have grown way beyond that.

Here’s what advanced customer service looks like now: a prime channel for fostering 1:1 conversations and a doorway to new opportunities. Instead of focusing on resolving temporary complaints or requests, this department aims to develop a connection that deepens the customer relationship. And one tool they use to do that are the valuable insights harvested by your CRM (like Salesforce).

Another important aspect: making customer service an organization-wide initiative. Customer-centric devotion isn’t just for public-facing employees, as Salesforce lays out in this great infographic:

75 percent of customers have spent more because of positive interactions.

Service isn’t just obligatory – it’s a living, breathing, reliable benefit. Being pleasant and positive when greeting customers isn’t enough. Creating a good customer experience, where your buyers feel heard and appreciated, really does encourage them to buy again, buy more, and maintain a relationship with your company. Service takes what could be a one-time transaction and transforms it into an ongoing relationship – when the service is good, that is.

81 percent say negative things about you after they call….

Yikes. But let’s be honest – we all know customer service teams don’t always do right by their customers. I know I’ve hung up the phone and muttered a few choice words after failing to get the answers and assistance I needed. And a few times I’ve been dissatisfied enough to tell someone bluntly, I wouldn’t buy from that company. Stay away.

A broken promise, a disappointing product, sloppy service, a disdainful attitude: any of these can not only rupture customer loyalty, but spark a spreading wave of negativity toward the brand.

…. And 82 percent say companies could have done more to prevent them from switching brands.

Think about this one for a moment. The customers are saying that. And most of them aren’t even trained in the many marketing and sales techniques smart teams use to deepen customer loyalty. But they still walked away feel neglected, and thinking about what companies could have done to win their loyalty and future sales. Think about all the ways you know to create brand affinity and make sure you’re investing in the right ones.

More negative news: 62 percent have had to contact a company multiple times to resolve an issue. And 56% have had to explain their issue more than once.

This might strike you as the fault of inept customer service reps. No doubt, that’s probably the case in many instances. But it’s also clear that CRM data plays a role here. What kind of interaction would customers have if they spoke to a rep who had access to their past purchases, their preferences, their needs? Probably a whole lot of explanations would vanish, because there would be a stronger understanding of what the customer needs and why it matters to them.

You might still be wondering what role the sales team plays in this. Well, here are a few reasons that connecting the customer service and sales departments matters.

70 percent of leaders said having a single view of customers led to cost savings.

85 percent said the lack of a single view led to business problems – and 18 percent said they were missing out on vital cross-selling and up-selling opportunities as a result.

In our world, we’re always talking about unity and alignment. Linking sales and customer service is good for both departments, because they build the positive affinity that drives revenue. It’s just another argument for giving your people the tools they need to succeed with the aim of giving your customers a great experience.

Breaking Out of Spreadsheet Prison

Are you old enough to remember when spreadsheets were new? Okay, you don’t have to answer that. But you probably remember your first thorny spreadsheet project; you stared at the rows and columns for hours, creating formulas for different cells. And as your project grew, so did that spreadsheet – until it turned into a monster with so much data that you couldn’t turn it into anything clear or comprehensive.

It’s time to admit the obvious: spreadsheets may still play a role in our business lives, but they simply cannot efficiently manage the amount of data pouring into our systems. Think of the vast amounts of customer data you need to control – or the nuances attached to each sales interaction. Can you document those smoothly in a spreadsheet? Can your sales team adequately serve your prospects based on spreadsheet intelligence?

No, not really. Not expertly. And that’s where Salesforce (a Customer Relationship Management tool) comes in. By managing all your customer information in one place, your CRM is one-stop-shopping for boosting sales performance. You can follow up with a prospect by email or reach out on social media. You can check the details of your last conversation. You can stay up to date on all your tasks and measure how you’re doing.

In short, you can super-charge your ability to close more deals, launch smarter conversations and forecast accurately.

Are You Salesforce-Ready?

Now maybe you’re thinking, “I know Salesforce offers great benefits but our team isn’t ready for it yet.” Or: “We’re doing okay without it so why bother?”

But is your current system really giving you all of the benefits of a CRM?? Ask yourself these questions to see where you’re coming up short.

  • How complete is your visibility? Salesforce gives you a kind of omnipotence by letting you see all sales conversations and interactions. You don’t have to flip through different spreadsheets or ask different department heads for their data. You’ll be able to tell at a glance which tactics are outperforming others and which reps need coaching.
  • Is your data connected and unified? Your different teams and departments probably maintain different spreadsheets, with notes scattered in different systems – adding up to a fractured outlook. Old systems don’t talk to new systems, and soon you’ve got conflicting insights. Salesforce provides a unified single source of truth.
  • Is the team empowered to be remote? Today’s sales team is on the go. They can’t work on the fly unless they have all of the information they need at their fingertips – from a customer’s goals to recent buying history. If your reps are operating in the field without access to that knowledge, they’re doing under a handicap.
  • Can you scale smoothly? Imagine your business booms in a few months, doubling or tripling in orders. While some growing pains are inevitable, you can make your growth smoother with a CRM with standardized processes and accessible data. Sticking with spreadsheets, on the other hand, will inadvertently create silos as new and different teams maintain different databases of new customers.

Transitioning to Salesforce will make your processes more efficient, endow you with smarter insights and connect the right leads to the right sales reps. You’ll understand how to transform new relationships into long-term engagements and help the entire team be more productive.

In short, Salesforce is the promised land waiting outside your collection of complicated spreadsheets. After all, this is the era of knocking down silos and connecting all of your different systems and data to form an overarching look at relevant patterns. Only a CRM like Salesforce gives you the power to drive closer connections with your customers.

Is AI Your New Sales Assistant?

Will robots one day dominate the earth? This seems to be where every discussion about artificial intelligence (AI) ends up. But while that may be fun to speculate on, AI in our current business world is worthy of discussion too – especially if you’re in sales.

If you’re still trying to wrap your head around all your CRM capabilities, you might think AI sales tools are too advanced to worry about now – you can tackle them in the future. In fact, some sales leaders are already using AI to transform their organization’s revenue and sales performance. From the conversations, they have with prospects to the way they close deals to basic administrative tasks, these leaders are making their team faster and more efficient.

The first thing you need to know about AI in sales today is that it offers convenience. It can work for literally the most basic sales team by either enhancing simple workflows or driving stronger outcomes.

Let’s look at 4 areas where your AI can help your sales team right now.

Handling Scheduling and Calendar Management

Despite the many technologies at our disposal, until now we’ve had to deal with the tedious act of scheduling meetings, demos, lunches and calls ourselves. Not only does taking care of our calendars eat up valuable time, but trying to schedule meetings that work for all other relevant calendars can be a Herculean feat. These AI tools act as your own digital assistant, identifying who’s available when, setting up the meeting and settling scheduling conflicts.

Acting as Your Ghostwriter

AI-enabled CRM tools are already able to learn your writing patterns in emails using natural language processing. To what extent, you might ask? These tools can actually create responses for you based on what you probably would have written. Depending on the contacts writing you and the phrases they use, along with other data, this kind of AI can handle quick questions for you or even find the right documents to attach to the email. Probably you’ll still write complex or meaningful letters yourself, but AI can save you from dealing with the daily pile-up of simple questions in your inbox.

Identifying Your Valuable Leads

Consider this the next phase of our current predictive analytical tools. With features that make last year’s lead scoring algorithms look like covered wagons, these AI tools will quickly and expertly organize all the data surrounding the buyer’s journey and turn it into useful insights. Your team will know what’s worth pursuing and what isn’t worth your attention as this AI will have uncanny analysis on who’s most likely to buy.

Strengthening and Extending the Customer Relationship

You may feel your CRM already has this covered. Whenever your customer buys or subscribes or renews, your team probably does a fair amount of research to shape an effective approach. Are your insights as deep as they could be? Probably not, but you only have so many hours in the day. Luckily this kind of AI can efficiently mine online data and company information to build an accurate and meaningful look into customer needs. Even more importantly, it can organize this information into a digestible form, getting the team up to speed without effort or a serious investment of time.

Artificial intelligence might sound too complicated to bother with for a busy sales team. But by getting up to speed now on available capabilities, you can position your team to take advantage of the AI arriving in our future.

Are You Asking the Right Questions About AI?

If you still think artificial intelligence (AI) is something for your grandchildren to grapple with, prepare to be surprised: AI is going to have a drastic impact on our lives and our businesses over the next decade.

How drastic? According to McKinsey, artificial intelligence is contributing to a transformation of society happening “ten times faster and at 300 times the scale, or roughly 3,000 times the impact” of the Industrial Revolution. That puts an almost impossible demand on every organization to adapt wisely – and quickly.

Of course, we’re already surrounded by AI every day, although we may not think of those tools as such. Maybe you dictate your To Do list to Alexa each morning. Maybe that’s a driverless car next to you at the stoplight. And maybe – make that probably – your daily workflows and collaboration are powered by AI.

The reality is, these tools and technologies have blended into our lives so seamlessly that we don’t even think of them as being AI. But that doesn’t mean that AI’s integration into our business lives isn’t going to be disruptive.

In fact, for most organizations, it will mean transformation on an unprecedented scale. The way we hire, collaborate and achieve are already shifted and they’re going to change even more. And the way we deliver customer experiences? That’s going to blow wide open.

The time to forecast these changes and develop appropriate strategies is now. Other leaders might be waiting for the day a robot pours their morning coffee, but you can get the jump on the future now by asking these 4 questions:

How fast – and how severely – will AI change your industry?

Some experts are predicting that AI’s economic impact will hit somewhere between $14 trillion and $33 trillion by 2025. However, the where of those numbers is more in question. We know that the auto industry and retail have been disrupted by AI, while manufacturing is quickly becoming the next in line for a drastic overhaul. But while some leaders in other industries feel they’ll be passed by, it’s more likely that every industry will be impacted – and sooner than they think. In other words, everyone can benefit from planning for the AI revolution.

How will your strategy and operations change in the next 5 years?

Think of changing the way sales and marketing interact, the way we recruit new talent or the way we plan new initiatives or design job responsibilities. Now imagine all of them changing at the same time. Artificial intelligence will bring sweeping changes and not necessarily in a tidy or manageable order. Some experts believe AI technology will mature faster than most organizations will be able to adapt to their new world.

How will AI impact your workforce?

In an ideal world, AI would make our work lives easier and more productive; maybe even usher in an employment boom. But anyone who’s been paying attention has seen jobs lost to automation. It’s a safe bet that many employees will see their job roles change or vanish entirely. Forward-thinking leaders who care about recruiting top talent and sustaining a positive company culture will need to begin dialogues about training, development and fostering an agile workforce that can work productively with new AI capabilities.

How can we drive better customer experiences with AI?

Gartner believes that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed by AI.Does that make you nervous, relieved or both? Customers already expect immediate service and meaningful conversations; will AI really able to deliver on the second part? We’ve all had frustrating experiences with so-called “intelligent” applications that were the opposite of smart, relevant or efficient. That means leaders who care about creating excellent customer interactions will need to be ready to carefully manage AI customer tools. Those who find ways to partner personal relevance with AI capabilities will have a considerable advantage.

For Salesforce users, the march towards AI has begun. To find out more, you can visit the Salesforce Einstein page.

From Apathy to Passion: Fostering Competitors

A little healthy competition never hurt anyone, right?

In fact, according to Teach for All co-founder and CEO Wendy Kopp in a Wall Street Journal article, competition might be the perfect catalyst for high sales team performance. Kopp cites competition as the reason for the innovation during the world’s space race. Just a decade before the United States landed on the moon, the whole endeavor felt like the plot of a science fiction novel. Humans walking on the moon? Absurd.

Then we started competing with Russia and well, suddenly there was innovation happening. There were breakthroughs, quantum leaps in space travel possibilities. And then one day Buzz Armstrong made human history with one small step that was a giant step for mankind.

Competition in the workplace isn’t always about negative rivalries. Healthy competition can push employees out of apathy and encourage them to stretch their limits. Mundane daily routines can take on new meaning as coworkers accomplish significant milestones. Sometimes all it takes to bust someone out of a slump is watching a peer’s achievement. Employees may say they just want a paycheck – but everyone wants to feel capable and valued, like they’ve done something meaningful. Professional competition holds out that possibility to employees by encouraging ingenuity and confidence in their abilities.

Of course, competition can be a nuanced thing. No team wants two employees who want to see the other fail. Healthy competition takes the long view and prioritizes teamwork and shared goals, rather than achievement at the expense of another.

To foster this kind of competition among your sales team without negative repercussions, take these 4 steps.

1. Give credit where it’s due.

Only one kind of person likes feeling invisible at work – an underperformer. Create a dashboard that updates daily and quarterly progresses for all your reps, and puts out individual successes for all to see. As they see their colleagues succeeding, you can believe they’ll feel motivated to make those extra calls.

2. Focus on individual improvement.

Every sales rep gets dealt a different hand of cards. To keep jealousy and resentment from raising their destructive heads, make it clear that the ultimate goal is for each rep to beat their personal best. You’ll keep morale high and foster collaboration and even coaching between associates.

3. Partner up.

Some companies have seen major success by pairing a new hire with a tenured employee during competition. It allows the new hires to navigate difficult calls with someone who’s done their time in the trenches while giving seasoned sales reps a set of fresh eyes to look through. Meanwhile both parties sharpen their skills and encourage each other in the competition.

4. Celebrate the wins.

If you know sales reps, you know they love recognition. Make sure you reinforce the behaviors that spark top-notch performance; not only will you encourage representatives to keep up the good work, you’ll motivate other reps to join them. Whether you’re duplicating winning plays or pointing out smart tactics, these celebrations build consistency across the team and take collective performance to a higher level.

Every sales leader’s dream is a team that supports each other. Foster healthy competition and you can find yourself with a team that brings you tighter camaraderie and more closed deals.

Stop Failing Your Customers: Customer Success Platform

Pick 10 businesses at random and you’ll find wide differences in size, industry, customer base and more. Chances are, though, they all share this trait: they’re organized by three key functions of marketing, sales and customer service.

From a big picture standpoint, these three teams work together like a funnel, which is why you’ll find them across organizations. Marketing creates interest and leads for the company and passes them onto sales. The sales team converts the leads into deals and sends the customers on their way. The service team assists with onboarding, troubleshooting and support.

In theory, these three teams present a unified experience to the customer – the same attitude, the same tone in approach. From marketing emails to a sales negotiation to a customer support call, the buyer recognizes the feeling of dealing with this company, and every touchpoint builds on the last one.

In practice: not so much. There can be real problems with this structure. In many businesses, these teams don’t talk to each other – not meaningfully. Marketing campaigns and sales outreach have wildly different tones. Customer service seems like it comes from another company altogether.

And don’t think the customer doesn’t pick up on it. Communication gaps between departments that feel natural in the workplace will feel painfully obvious to customers. That used to be the status quo – but these days customers are demanding more. They want to see more transparency, stronger service and a deeper understanding of their needs.

A Tale of Two Companies

Here’s a great example: your typical cell phone service provider. New customers are constantly marketed to with new deals and lower prices. Existing customers, however, are typically given the option of paying full price for an upgraded phone or waiting until their 2-year contract is up. What kind of deal is that? A stranger is told they’re valued and important; customers who’ve been loyal to provider for years are told they don’t matter. Sales and marketing are not connecting on this issue.

Then you have retailers like department store Nordstrom where every associate is devoted to customer satisfaction. From loyalty programs, in-store support and hassle-free returns, the shopping experience is designed to make the customer feel important. That’s an experience where marketing, sales and customer support have aligned; and it’s why Nordstrom has rated highly as a shopper’s paradise for decades.

To be fair, it’s also why consumers are expecting more from other businesses. Once they get a taste of customer service done right, they just won’t tolerate businesses that clearly operate in silos.

This isn’t new information, by the way. Business gurus have been pointing this out for a few years now. But companies – especially the enterprise – have been slow to adapt to changing demands.

If this sounds familiar, you’ll be glad to hear that Salesforce has created Customer Success Platform, a new feature designed to put the customer at the center of every interaction. Using this technology, service representatives can enjoy full visibility into the customer’s history with marketing and sales. With an immediate understanding of an individual customer’s experience, it dissolves typical barriers and empowers all three teams to approach the customer from a supportive, informed stance. That disjointed feeling of dealing with different companies within one company just melts away.

In sales, we talk a lot about a 360-degree view of the customer, but this technology actually offers it up. What that means for the companies who use it: meaningful engagements, deeper brand affinity, better sales. What it means for the companies who don’t: nothing good.

Take a look. And see if your organization can benefit.

5 Secrets of Killer Customer Service

Leaders love to talk about excellent customer service. Why wouldn’t they? If they’re up to speed on their sales wisdom, they know that buyers are more than 5 times more likely to purchase from a company that has treated them exceptionally well – so it’s a no-brainer to make service a top priority.

But making that excellent service happen? That’s a bit brainier, as it turns out. Some leaders think they just need to hire sales reps and customer support with the magic touch. Give them some training, some good tools, and it’s off to the races.

In fact, superior customer experiences involves the entire organization – and some practices that aren’t always immediately obvious.

Every good sales team should be obsessive about the buyer. That’s obvious. But going beyond that and coaching the rest of the business to be customer-centric demands more than that – and it starts with buy-in.

Let’s go over 5 core principles to fill your company with customer advocates.

1. Give the gift of time

How do you make a customer feel acknowledged and prioritized? You spend time with them. And the easiest way to allow your representatives to spend quality time with their buyers is to take away as many tedious tasks as possible.

Your team is probably (hopefully?) already using CRM tools like Salesforce, helping them to be as productive and efficient as possible. They’ll get insight into customer behavior so they know which opportunities to pursue and which upsells might be attractive to specific customers. That means CRM delivers a twofold benefit – the efficiency that lets your staff spend more time with customers, and the knowledge to make that time count.

2. Use incentives intelligently

Research shows that incentives work across the board to motivate employees. Invest in an incentives program for your employees who demonstrate excellent customer care and you’re using the company’s resources wisely.

Or are you? It turns out incentives work best under some circumstances, and can fail under others. For instance, non-monetary recognition and awards can be meaningful, especially to Millennials, when it comes to inspiring superior performance. Another tactic that works: make it easy for your employees to track their progress through a incentive compensation management (ICM) solution. They’ll stay more engaged if they can get involved in the system.

A word of warning here. Be sure to deliver the incentives in a timely way. If your people need to work all year toward one annual incentive, they’ll probably lose interest. It just won’t feel connected to their day to day performance. Smaller quarterly incentives will feel more accessible and do more to boost morale.

3. Create paths of excellence

Chances are, you once worked for a company where a leader gathered everyone together, gave a rousing speech on how they could all do better and then turned them loose – with all the same barriers in place as before.

Sure, words are great. But after you craft your customer-centric message, you need to validate it through daily actions. How can you set up your staff for success? Automated processes are one easy answer. Personalized, targeted sales and marketing tools are another.

Take a look at who’s delivering great service and who’s not. Maybe some team members just need an assist. Put customer response conduits in place across multiple channels, such as online chat, help desk, email, social media engagement, and even the phone. You want your customers to feel supported and heard, but you also want team members in every position to have the opportunity to shine.

4. Look into the future

Giving the customer what they want is great. Giving them what they didn’t know they wanted? Even better… for both of you.

Sure, your CRM will tell you the behaviors, goals and needs of your customers. But as a customer-obsessed leader, you need to imagine where they’re going. Maybe no one thought to ask for a phone that could also be a computer and a television all in one, but now that Steve Jobs delivered one, we use it every day.

You don’t have to be a solo visionary. Tap your staff for ideas. Work those creative muscles and invent new ways to happily surprise your buyers. That’s customer centricity in a nutshell.

5. Shift the focus from company values to customer values

So many businesses invest in documenting these two things: coaching and training programs, and customer values. Yet oddly enough, they never put the two together. Educate all new employees on your buyers: who they are, what they want and what matters to them. Yes, this applies even if the employees don’t have customer-facing jobs. All of your staff should be clear on their purpose: pleasing those customers and how they can do it. Embed this into your training refresher programs and your onboarding process.

I really believe that employees want to provide excellent customer service. Show them the way and your customers will feel the difference.

What Trails Are You Blazing?

Are you a Customer Trailblazer? If not, it’s not too late for you to become one.

Maybe you’re not familiar with the term. It’s what Salesforce calls those people and companies who leverage the platform to drive innovation, solve problems and transform their careers and their teams.

No doubt you’re already using Salesforce to take care of the basics: understanding customers and prospects, closing deals, keeping your team informed and empowered. And that’s great. But some users are pushing themselves towards disrupting their markets and paving the way for new business models. In short, they’re inventive thinkers who are turning their sales tech into engines of ingenuity.

I know you want to drive a better customer experience. It’s not a simple ask. Neither is energizing your sales team and taking them to a higher level through technology. But some leaders are rising to the challenge – and here’s how they’re doing it.

They’re all about empowering people through technology – and not just their team.

Let’s admit it. Traditionally, IT has existed in its own bubble. IT leaders may be hunkered down integrating new platforms, solving an outage or monitoring dashboards for signs of cyber attacks, but they don’t always have a seat at the business strategy table. Trailblazers are changing that by using their technology to help every part of the business function at a higher level. Maybe it’s about helping the customer success team access key information, or using applications to align sales and marketing. Maybe they’re figuring out the right metrics that can turn sales effort into sales efficiency. Overall, they’re kicking down silos and helping the entire organization get stronger.

They don’t just ask for innovation – they foster it.

Trailblazers look beyond their traditional systems and hunt for opportunities to help others get creative. They know when people are bogged down in tedious tasks, they probably aren’t going to carve a few hours for brainstorming or meeting with other teams to develop synergy. One basic example: cloud technology has freed workers from maintaining hardware and allowed them to focus on more flexible improvements. Salesforce can help businesses scale projects, integrate important tools and connect data, which gives everyone more time to be creative and think outside the box.

They’re all about their customers.

When sales tech first came around, people thought it would help sales reps connect with prospects and buyers. Today we’ve gone way beyond that. Now smart leaders are exploring ways to help every employee better understand and assist customers. By connecting customer data across platforms, different teams and departments can all draw from a well of valuable information – adding up to a seamless experience for the customer that ultimately increases loyalty and satisfaction. The customer experience is no longer about one transaction or phone call. It’s about a connected community that offers an “anywhere/anytime” availability to help customers feel understood and fulfilled, no matter what their challenges.

But they care about their employees too.

Okay, so it’s a cliché but it’s still true: your workforce is your greatest asset. Customers may be vital, but leaders know that employees — from all departments — want to enjoy a seamless, mobile-friendly experience while they’re at work. Trailblazers have made it their mission to boost collaboration, productivity and talent retention through better access to information and tools for everyone. Not only does it drive up employee morale, it fosters an overall commitment to excellence built on a foundation of employee loyalty. Increased productivity from a motivated, skilled workforce: there’s no better recipe for a great brand experience for customers, or an increase in revenue.

Ready to be a Customer Trailblazer? Your Salesforce platform can give you the tools. Transformation is just a few fresh new ideas away.

Sales and Financial Services: How AI is Changing the Rules

Money. Artificial intelligence. Customer relationships.

Think those are disconnected subjects? Think again.

Artificial intelligence has expanded business possibilities in many ways, and one vertical making the most of new AI capabilities is the financial industry. But let’s be clear: AI doesn’t necessarily mean a robot voice guiding you through new technological landscapes. In fact, you probably already use some form of AI on a regular basis. It could be an algorithm that finds network contacts for your social media network, or answers questions while you shop for a new car.

So it isn’t too surprising that the financial services industry are partnering fintech advances with great customer service. After all, financial services are built on trust. The client-advisor relationship goes deeper than a retail transaction; it involves advice that can affect someone’s retirement and old age, their children’s education, and other personal developments. Now, just like in other industries, financial advisors are looking to artificial intelligence to create innovative new sales pathways that can boost client fulfillment and increase productivity.

Which brings us to Salesforce Einstein. As an integral part of the client relationship, Einstein turns your favorite CRM tool even smarter. Einstein can steer smarter wealth management, insurance decisions and consumer banking for customers – by empowering their advisors with deeper insights.

Here are 3 ways Einstein is changing the face of financial services.

Easy insights, the virtual way. One common challenge in finance is making intelligent use of relevant client information. What are the client’s financial goals? How many accounts do they have and where are they? Einstein can put all of that information at a wealth advisor’s fingertips in one convenient summary. Managers can also segment clients to deliver targeted strategies, focus on important top accounts and maintain engagement with all of their clients – without doing hours of research.

Customer-centric advice. Too many advisors rely on the strategies or investments they’re already familiar with – a habit that’s easy for them, but not always best for their clients. If their comfort zone recommendations don’t align with the customer’s needs and interests, neither is going to be successful. In fact, retail bankers can have such a vast consumer base that they recommend the same products across the board whether they’re helpful or not. That kind of generic approach can quickly alienate customers.

Einstein uses intelligent recommendation engines that pull customer data patterns to devise personalized strategies. Even when advisors lack a close relationship with their customers, they can identify the products that are valuable to each account.

An accurate crystal ball. There’s been intense focus on predictive analytics lately. Now financial services is using Einstein’s automated case deflection to predict the future. Or, in the finance version, answer insurance policyholder questions before they call the contact center. Cases can be automatically classified according to a collection of data and then intelligently routed to the right department or advisor. Instead of spending time getting up to speed, agents know the best actions in advance when their customers purchase a new home or car.

Client relationships matter in every industry – but acquiring the right insights and understanding effective long-term strategies is vital for financial services. Einstein helps uncover client insights, make strategic recommendations and generate predictions that help customers feel they’re in expert hands. By automating core processes, advisors dedicate the time saved to focusing on deepening the customer relationship.

So yes, artificial intelligence may not seem like much of a factor when it comes to a solid financial services relationship – but by opening a conduit to financial expertise, Einstein is helping both clients and advisors find new ways to succeed.

Cleaning Up Your Salesforce Data

In 2016, every leader worth their salt knows the value of their data. This is especially true for teams using Salesforce. Without the data spotlight, you won’t have any idea who your top performers are, how to wisely invest your resources or where you’ve been wasting budget all along.

But not all data is created equal – in fact, some data is downright harmful. If your systems are full of outdated information, duplicate fields, conflicting indicators and poor quality data, you’re not going to make smart decisions. You’re going to be led astray.

Charting a course using data is kind of like following a sherpa up a perilous mountain. Follow a top-notch sherpa and you’ll dodge the dangerous spots and get to the top to plant your flag. But if you follow a confused amateur who isn’t sure where they’re going… Well, that doesn’t bode well for your success.

Let’s just say it: weak data means weak results. It means chasing down “opportunities” in your sales funnel that are actually dead ends. It assigning unachievable sales quotas, and collecting quarter-end metrics that are way off base. It means sharing reports with C-suite leaders and realizing later the information is inaccurate. It means migrating bad data from legacy systems into your new systems, and continuing the chaos.

The only way to avoid these disasters? Making sure your account, lead, contact and customer data is clean, accurate and complete.

Easier said than done, you might be thinking. So here are 3 steps to keep your data quality top notch.

#1: Evaluate your current data quality.You may be reluctant to find out just what state your Salesforce data is in – but you have to know where you’re starting from before you can make improvements.

You can make this step easier on yourself by using a tool that delivers a visual representation of your data quality. The good ones offer a data assessment that helps you analyze your account, contact, and lead records. You can even talk to a certified experts to learn best practices for improving data quality.

Another valuable tool: software that can clean up your duplicate records. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on identifying and resolving your dupes, these tools can provide specific features that prevent redundancies before they happen.

#2: Build your own dashboards with the metrics that matter to you.A good dashboard can make all the difference in data management. Instead of sifting through piles of reports to assess your overall sales health or changes in your customer base, you can glance at your dashboard and get the right information in seconds – and you can convey the same information in meetings to clear up misunderstandings and document your successes.

So here’s the million dollar question: which metrics matter?

Marketing teams need to look at the pipeline and their top revenue-generating campaigns, of course. They’ll also want to look at campaign success by region and leads by source and campaign. Sales pros, on the other hands, are going to be interested in win/loss rates, time to close and the opportunity pipeline. They’ll also need to see activities broken down by each sales rep and a forecast for those reps by stage.

Your service teams will have yet another set of data to prioritize. What’s the volume of high severity cases? What’s the case volume trend and the top customers by open case? And finally – what’s the time to case resolution?

# 3. Go multi-dimensional with your data.If your company is typical, you likely collect data from a few reliable sources, such as past transactions and online interactions. The problem? That’s not going to give you a full view of your customer – not really. That’s why the latest predictive analytics tools are so helpful; by using data from multiple in-house and third-party sources, then integrating those data sets, they create cohesive customer profiles.

Yesterday’s sales teams were limited in the data they collected and how they used it. Today there are tools that reveal inter-company relationships, hierarchical affiliations, product usage and much more, empowering you to act on richer and more accurate insights that spell out the actions needed to go to the next level.

Like engine fuel, data drives your company farther when it’s clean and powerful. Take the time to eliminate your duplicate and incomplete records and ensure that your strategies and investments are based only on the cleanest, fullest data sets possible. You’ll know the right sales and marketing priorities to act on – and strengthen your best accounts.