Kathy Gibson reports – The trend to digital has accelerated over the last few months, and companies are under tremendous pressure to quickly change the way they do business.

This trend will continue over the next months, says Petra Jenner, GM and senior vice-president: EMEA Emerging markets at Salesforce.

“A common factor we are hearing from customers around the globe is that the shift to digital is happening quickly and has become an imperative,” she says.

“So the need to serve customers in a digital way is now more relevant than ever.” Companies around the world are having to pivot to a digital model in order to remain competitive into the future, she adds.

“We have also discovered that there is a certain window of opportunity within which we are able to rethink the way we have done business in the past, and be more open to adjust and change; also reflect on how to interact with customers.”

Salesforce believes in putting the customer in the centre of what they do; and wants to enable its customers to do the same, Jenner says.

Salesforce Customer 360 is a completely digital platform that allows customers to deliver smart apps with speed and flexibility.

Salesforce is a born-in-the-cloud company and is a pioneer in the cloud-based CRM market, Jenner adds.

Robin Fisher, senior area vice-president: EMEA Emerging Markets at Salesforce, points out that the Covid-19 crisis has created new challenges for South African businesses.

It has changed customer expectations across the board; with 84% of global customers saying that experience is as important as products and services.

In the local market, chief marketing officers (CMOs) are battling to unify customer data sources, with a need to overcome silos and start doing effective analytics.

They also need to balance personalisation with customers’ comfort levels.

The third challenge is the need for innovation.

These top challenges are followed by an ineffective use of tools and technologies; and the ability to share a unified view of customer data across business units.

Fisher cites the example of KBAC Flooring, with was able to move from a paper-based to a digital system using Salesforce Customer 360.

The new systems allowed staff to collaborate around the customers, using Chatter to improve communication within the company.

“Last but not least is the upskilling that comes with digitalisation,” Fisher says. “The new way of working will require new skills in the future, and we all need to understand technology and how to use it.”

KBAC has allowed its employees to access Salesforce’s Trailhead learning tool during the lockdown so they continue to get engagement and training.

Fisher adds that Standard Bank recently decided to go all-in with Salesforce as its front-end tool.

Salesforce is being used to create a single source of trust across the entire customer journey so the bank can respond quickly to changing customer needs.

Standard Bank has a stated goal of becoming a platform business, providing both its own services and services from its partners within the bank’s ecosystem. The goal is to use Salesforce to leverage all channels to innovate and create new business opportunities.

In South Africa, cloud computing is growing at 29% annually, to $370-billion in 2018 to R1,7-billion in 2024 – and this is expected to be accelerated by Covid-19.

This generates innovation and incremental value for companies, Fisher adds. It drives down costs, democratises innovation and offers faster time to value.

The new economy demands specialised profiles, with Salesforce alone creating 5 240 direct jobs and generating $2,1-billion in new business revenue, he points out.

The impact extends to the broader economy. IDC estimates that for every dollar Salesforce makes in South Africa, the ecosystem makes R4.75 – and that is expected to increase to $7.03. In addition, a further 6 900 indirect jobs will be created.