Attending Dreamforce last week, I had heard of the scale, but nothing could prepare me for the size. More than 175,000 people from 51 countries attending 2500 breakout sessions to hear about the latest innovations and customer success stories. Everyone is there to dream bigger and imagine what could be.
I traveled to San Francisco this year to learn more about customers expectations for the support they receive from organizations and how those needs are rapidly changing. Dreamforce for me was an opportunity to network with other Customer Experience leaders and benchmark Xero Support with some of the best in the world, discover new technology so we can take our support model to the next level and learn more about how we can continue to leverage our existing tools.
Getting the most out of Dreamforce
Preparation is key when you attend an event as big as Dreamforce. Initially it was overwhelming trying to squeeze all the interesting keynotes and hundreds of sessions into four short days. I ended up with about 8-10 seasons bookmarked each day which gave me the flexibility to choose where I wanted to be. Being organized but still being able to go with the flow helped me still isolate what was going to add value depending on what I had seen or heard earlier in the day and overall make the entire event more enjoyable.
I had the freedom to stop and talk to vendors, Salesforce partners and chat to other CX Leaders. The sessions blew my mind — what other conference can teach you about Artificial Intelligence and have Tony Robbins leading a session on hunger to succeed or hear Melinda Gates talk about her and Bill’s life and philanthropy work?
Merging business and social efforts was a central theme which ran through the entire event. In between all the sessions and keynotes, it was really encouraging to see everyone come together to raise millions of dollars for the red foundation creating an AIDS free generation.
The product keynotes were high intensity and full of new leading marketing, sales and service technology changes. What stood out straight away was that Xero is a true Servicecloud leader – part of the Salesforce Platform which we implemented for our 300+ global customer experience team in earlier this year. This was recognized in being nominated for a Trailblazer Award this year and included in the Dreamforce Servicecloud Keynote. All in the six short months we have rolled out.
More and more it’s becoming evident that marketing, sales and services need to be connected. Customers want seamless, intelligent interactions with business. Everyone is driving for self service but it needs to be more than that – it needs to be true contextual personalised automation and the technology is almost here to make this real.
The big product announcement this year was an introduction to Einstein – AI capability built right into Salesforce’s core platform. Think of it like having your own data scientist dedicated to bringing AI to every customer relationship and interaction you have. It learns from all your data and delivers predictions and recommendations in context of what you or your customers are trying to do. It can even suggest next best steps to you and your customers and automate tasks.
Xero’s heading down a similar path with our Xerobot which is due to be released in coming months. Revealed at Xerocon, we’ve been working on further integrating our small business platform with products like Facebook Messenger so you can access the information you need, where you want it.
Built on Amazon Web Services, the chatbot leverages machine learning technology and the $1 trillion worth of transactional data processed in Xero over the past 12 months to enable businesses to query their latest financial data, including who owes them money, when their next bill is due or how much money is in their bank account. It also connects to the Xero Advisor Directory and can recommend a suitable accountant or bookkeeper in their area. Xero subscribers will also be able to discover new apps in the Xero ecosystem.
A recent Xero survey of more than 1,200 small business owners found that over 83 percent of respondents now use modern communications channels (social media, text, mobile messaging or online chat) for communicating one-to-one with a customer. With the majority of these tech savvy small business owners (over 80 percent) leveraging these tools weekly, and in many cases (over 45 percent) using them daily. More than half of respondents reported that they have communicated with an accountant or bookkeeper through one of these mediums, the most prevalent (43 percent) using text messages to stay in touch.
We’re continuing to innovate to make the lives of our customers’ simpler – developing chatbots which integrate into platforms that they’re already comfortable communicating on is just one part of our customer service roadmap.
I feel extremely lucky to be able to attend such a awesome event. The hard work will continue back in NZ to turn all we’ve learnt and heard into reality and continue providing a world class support service to our customers. Dreamforce ’17 has a lot to live up to.
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