Customer Transformation Insights

Interview: Customer Transformation Trends 2024 – Salesforce

  • Interview
  • 5 minute read
  • 08 Jul 2024

Quo vadis, Salesforce? 2024 will also be exciting from a CRM perspective. An interview with Jens Zwenger, Partner and Salesforce Consulting Leader at PwC Germany, about a new understanding of customer relationships, the most common CRM challenges and the role of new technologies in overcoming them.

Jens Zwenger has over 18 years of experience in consulting, the majority of which he has specialized in Salesforce technology/products and cloud transformations. As Partner and Salesforce Consulting Leader at PwC Germany, he has already managed many transformative digitalization programs, optimized CRM processes and implemented numerous innovations. His expertise focuses on the development of digitalization strategies and cloud architectures.

Jens Zwenger ist Partner und Salesforce Consulting Leader bei PwC Deutschland

Mr. Zwenger, what do you see as the most important Salesforce trends for 2024?

Jens Zwenger: With regard to the AI megatrend, the integration and use of customer data platforms (CDP) is certainly the key to success, as consolidated and harmonized data is becoming increasingly important for IT in general and CRM in particular. Generative AI is much discussed, but our projects are often still more about preparing the data for it than about direct implementation.

Hyper-personalization, for example through agent augmentation, is also gaining in importance by making customer interactions even more personal.

After all, the response time of IT is becoming increasingly crucial in order to keep pace with new technologies and to be as well prepared as possible for the unknown future. The last few years have clearly shown us this: Blockchain, Metaverse, Generative AI – no matter what comes next, companies need to prepare for it.

How do these trends influence the strategic orientation of a CRM system in companies?

Zwenger: Our customers no longer see Salesforce as just a CRM tool, but as a comprehensive universe of products. This includes individual solutions such as the “Net Zero Cloud” as well as the use of Salesforce as a strategic application platform for all current and future business transactions.

At PwC, for example, we have also developed a Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) product based on this platform to optimize supplier relationships.

This approach also means that companies are increasingly switching from the typical best-of-breed to a best-of-suite approach. This means that they are no longer buying the best individual solution for specific requirements and accepting countless integration efforts in the process, but are opting for a single software suite. In particular, they avoid new data silos and instead use Salesforce as a strategic, integrated application platform. This is particularly essential in the context of hyper-personalization, ESG targets or LkSG, as data quality increases many times over with less integration.

In addition, cyber security is currently gaining enormously in importance: a smaller number of modern cloud solutions make it easier to defend against cyber attacks.

How will these developments affect the customer experience and customer engagement?

Zwenger: We are in a competitive environment in which companies are becoming increasingly digital and efficient. It’s no longer just about the competition between analogue and digital companies, but also about the different pace of digitalization within the companies themselves. The credo is: hypercompetition requires hyperpersonalization.

A key element here is omnichannel marketing, which enables a high level of accessibility and direct human contact. In the area of service call centers, the use of AI helps to improve both the customer experience and efficiency. Technologies such as conversational AI and augmented reality are on the agenda. They enable a deeper and more personalized interaction with customers, ideally resulting in a sustainable customer experience.

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Which new Salesforce technologies should companies keep an eye on this year?

Clearly industry cloud platforms. Salesforce originally started with agnostic products such as Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud, which can be used across industries and have been specifically adapted by consulting firms.

Industry clouds, such as the Auto Cloud for the automotive industry, the Education Cloud for the education sector or the Non-Profit Cloud for NGOs, which offer customized data, processes, terminology and services, now dominate. These solutions meet specific customer needs.

What role do new technologies such as AI or automated workflows play in customer transformation with Salesforce?

Zwenger: AI is already helping to efficiently analyze and summarize customer service inquiries in many CRM landscapes. It can also prepare text suggestions for answers and relieve customer service employees using agent augmented voice technology. There is still a lot of potential here to improve the efficiency and quality of customer interactions.

How do companies best ensure that their Salesforce implementations remain adaptable and scalable to keep pace with change?

Zwenger: The key strategy lies in the use of industry clouds and the aforementioned “restandardization”.

Companies should prefer centralized data storage and a system structure in order to allow flexibility for adaptations and extensions. Generative AI in low-code/no-code systems can also be used to implement requirements from the specialist departments much more quickly. Of course, it is important to strike the right balance in order to keep pace with constantly changing trends.

What challenges do companies face? And how can they be solved?

Zwenger: Internally, companies have to manage change and the necessary skills, but also the skepticism of their employees. These are obstacles in any transformative project. Only a comprehensive, personal change approach can help here. Companies also need to involve as many employees as possible in the change process. Not only directly in terms of design, but also in terms of commitment to the shared vision.

On the Salesforce side, tools such as Trailhead help here. Employees can use the free learning platform to further their education and acquire certificates, which increases motivation and promotes a learning-oriented corporate culture.

Externally, companies face challenges such as the need for personalization, rising customer expectations and increasing regulation, for example through the CSRD. Operationally, decentralized data and the associated complexity often put a strain on time-to-market. Here too, an integrated database and automated processes often help.

In which case studies has Salesforce been successfully used to promote customer transformation?

An outstanding example of the use of Salesforce technologies is a provider of CAD software for mechanical engineering. Together, we transformed the business model from a one-off license sale to a subscription model. The result is continuous revenue and stronger, long-term customer loyalty.

And we helped a DAX-listed company to digitalize its supplier network as part of supplier relationship management, including an internal 360-degree cockpit and a supplier portal with self-service features. The use of AI is already planned and there are initial showcases – although full implementation is still pending. That will certainly be exciting.

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