Back from Salesforce’s Higher Ed Summit – time to reflect and summarize.
Community-building – You’re Doing It Right
I am not sure if any other vendor is taking notes, but they should be. In fact, in the IT space, every single vendor should be taking notes of how Salesforce goes about building communities around their products. This should be studied, and cased, and then case studied. Because when it comes to building a community around a product, Salesforce’s commitment and actions are unprecedented.
Salesforce put together an advisory council consisting of actual customers who are actively using the product to help guide company’s effort. They also created an online community where users of the product can ask questions and exchange ideas. So far, pretty standard stuff and something that most companies do these days in their effort to pay appropriate amount of lip service to this whole customer community fad.
What makes it truly work for Salesforce is that they actually dedicated resources to making it work. They hired wonderful Kathy Lueckeman, who, for all intents and purposes, is still one of “us”. Kathy is now a member of the team that consistently monitors the online community and is very quick to respond to posts and questions from customers.
What in turn makes their responses super valuable is that they typically recommend another customer to talk to, thereby creating a sense of community. In other words, if someone asks how to do something, they answer the question if they know, but also point to a specific person in another school who they know may already have dealt with the issue.
This practice of connecting customers to each other is what, IMHO, makes the community building efforts by Salesforce work. It’s the absolute right thing to do. And they do this in all interactions – online and offline. It’s all about connecting customers. Whether I’m talking to Kathy or Mark Dickey, my list of contact grows. And if you are a vendor and you still do not understand why it’s more important for me to speak with a peer than to listen to your sales pitch, then you should not be surprised that I will not be quick to buy, forget about championing, your product.
As far as customer service for Salesforce is concerned, they should make their slogan something like: “Community-building done right.”
We’re All Connected
It seems that the rate of adaption of Salesforce is accelerating at an incredible pace. Which means that there are a great many schools that are wrestling with exact same issues and trying to get answers to exact same questions. That, in turn, means that this is something that Salesforce can solve once, for all of us, and so increase the rate of adoption even more.
Because what we all do is same (we’re admitting students, then educating them, then getting money off them), and why we do what we do is same (we want to get the right student, we want to give them quality education, we want to place them in good jobs, and we want them to be engaged alums). What differs is how we go about do it. In that sense, I get the feeling that most of the common questions I hear/see asked over and over again are about how to achieve the what and the why. That can be solved centrally, by Salesforce, leaving the how to be at the discretion of each implementer.
360 Degree View Is The Wrong Way To Look At It
Whenever I hear someone say that they want to get a 360 degree view into something, my instinct is to ask: “At what point?” During the summit, I heard lots of references to getting a 360 degree into a student as a way to describe that we should have a complete record prospect through alum. But describing that concept as a 360 degree view doesn’t work for me at all.
To me, if I want to have a 360 degree view, I want that view while they are prospect, and applicant, and so on. In other words, I want to know everything that is important to me at each stage of our interaction and in that sense, 360 degree view conveys that need.
I also heard the term “student lifecycle” used to refer to the same concept. It’s closer, but I still like student journey better. We did an MBA student journey and have since been using that term, student journey, as a way to indicate the very concept we’re trying to convey with “360” or “lifecycle” verbiage. Student journey is an adaptation of the customer journey terminology from service design discipline and IMHO poetically conveys how we should treat our constituents – we should sheppard them on their journey. It also has the added benefit of me being able to combine the terms and say that I’d like to have a 360 degree view of our constituents as each point of their journey.
More Depth Please
One thing I noticed, and this is not unique to Salesforce by any means, is that the presentations are too high level. They give some ideas, but mostly they confirm that I’m thinking of the right thing, without giving much insight into how to solve something. I would ask Salesforce to encourage their presenters to be more open, more forthcoming, more detailed.
I loved the concept. I actually chose later flight out of Phoenix to make sure I’d make it to the innovation panel. I think this is something that needs to continue to be present.
During the conference, I heard that Salesforce will move the summit to be hosted roughly 6 months after Dreamforce – that’s an awesome idea, and we’d love to host in 2018, when our new business school building is up.
Thanks to Salesforce! And thanks to ASU!