Salesforce.com hits the ground running in NZ

Salesforce.com arguably created the SaaS CRM market, but it now faces increasing competition

Salesforce.com is claiming rapid progress in the New Zealand market, moving from having “tens of customers” into the hundreds in the last two years.

Part of that succes has come off the back of Kiwisaver, with just shy of ten customers in the insurance business.

“Kiwisaver has been good to us,” country manager Aden Forrest says. “Businesses had to move quickly.”

Industry cycles have helped too. For instance, he says, utilities have been very focused on their back end processes but are now looking at their front offices.

Forrest says early users of the software, delivered on the software as a service (SaaS) model, used it to solve sales pipeline management issues, but now it is being used across many industry sectors and in much more varied applications.

Forrest says such applications include call centre and customer self service portals. Salesforce.com was also quick off the mark with an iPhone application, and is also available on most other smartphone platforms.

Salesforce.com arguably created the SaaS CRM market, but it now faces increasing competition from the likes of Oracle and Microsoft. Forrest says it is good those companies are appreciating it, and necessary to build the market for the SaaS model.

That said, he insists Salesforce.com’s platform is “many, many” years ahead.

He says for SaaS to work, the provider has to be focused on the success of their customers. Part of Salesforce.com’s subscription allows access to a “customer success manager” to help ensure users get the most out of the product.

He says one measure of that is that 60% to 70% of new customers since last Christmas have come from user referrals.

Forrest is not phased by a looming economic downturn either, saying while it’s a factor, Salesforce.com can show organisations how to make cost

savings, grow and pass those cost savings on to customers.

“They can scale up and down as required,” he says. “They can roll out in trial and then scale up.”

Salesforce.com has also expanded its sales channel over the past two years. Fronde was the original local partner and has a lot of experience, says Forrest. Gen-i now also offers the product, as does Deloitte, Datacom and Squarepeg Consulting, which has set up shop in New Zealand out of Australia.

Forrest says the sales model is a “sell with” one, and Salesforce.com provides skills and support.

He says CRM is now definitely in its third wave. the first was technology, the second processes and the third all about agility.

New applications are being rolled out to integrate Salesforce.com into Google’s Adwords, for instance, for campaign management. The application has also been integrated into weighbridges in the transport industry. It’s also been integrated with Facebook and other social networking services.

Salesforce.com now has seven people working on the New Zealand business, with three of these based in Australia.

Users gather for first Salesforce.com meet

CRM vendor Salesforce.com passed some kind of milestone in New Zealand last month, having its first ever user group conference, in Auckland.

The organiser of the event, Craig Skinner, Vodafone’s customer loyalty and growth campaign manager, says with just over 45 people attending, the first event was a great success.

“We’ve got about 90 people registered for the user group. There’s a huge amount of interest and enthusiasm for the product.”

Skinner says as there are a lot of new users of the software as a service (SaaS) products the group will focus on ways for them to learn best practice.

“The first meeting covered off new enhancements, which are released every quarter,” he says. Salesforce.com’s customer success manager, Jeff Challis, delivered a “whirlwind tour”through the new features, as well as covering new announcements from the company’s recent Dreamforce conference.

The session identified users need focused sessions in areas such as contact management, Outlook integration and user adoption. Skinner says he is issuing a survey to find out what users want. Another goal is to identify users of particular aspects of Salesforce.com’s software, such as case management, who can provide guidance for others. The first meeting was held at Vodafone’s Auckland offices.

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