#DF18 Dreamforce 2018: John Lewis catches some Lightning

 Last week, I joined 169,999 other people in San Francisco to experience the latest incarnation of the annual Salesforce extravanganza, Dreamforce 2018. Although I could write an entire column about how such a big event manages to cram itself into the City-by-the-Bay, suffice it to say that the 2018 event is … big and overwhelming.

If attendees only attended the big-tent event, they might be forgiven if they walked away a little long on inspiration and a little short on detail. So, here’s the baseline: Salesforce is the world’s #1 CRM cloud-based platform, with over 150,000 customers. But the Salesforce portfolio goes well beyond the sales cloud; its marketing, service, and commerce (formerly Demandware) cloud solutions are also popular with retailers across the spectrum of verticals and revenue bands. The company’s focus in 2018 is on two big improvements: integration of their various clouds by virtue of it’s recent acquisition of Mulesoft (redubbed Salesforce integration cloud), and the infusion of AI into the entire platform with the company’s ‘Einstein’ technology.

In his keynote remarks, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff laid out the broad lines of the Salesforce vision, and by sharing the stage with “Trailblazers” – people and companies that are on the front edge of Salesforce adoption – he crafted a compelling “carpe diem” message to the assembled.  Later, the conference sessions featured many more “Trailblazer” case studies, and one of the most interesting was offered by John Lewis & Partners.

Of course, John Lewis is well known to Essential Retail readers, but for my American friends, JLP is a retailer that is owned by its 83,000 employees (the partners). The company flies two brands, John Lewis (a high street department store) and Waitrose (grocery). Both brands operate throughout the UK and are headquartered in London. The unique nature of the partnership is worthy of a read all by itself – if you’re interested, here’s a link to a piece we published on the RSR website in 2011.  

What I learned at the Dreamforce conference is that John Lewis is more than a world class retailer; it’s also the world’s #1 ‘Salesforce Lightning’ user. The San Francisco technology giant made a big splash with the ‘Lightning’ announcement just last year, when CEO Benioff announced it as “a development environment that enables customisation of Salesforce capabilities to fit the customer’s particular needs, particularly using mobile devices”.  Lightning is designed to make it easy for Salesforce customers to customise the user interface, and (preferably) promote a “mobile first” positioning. 

It’s the ease of use that the retailer was looking for and why it moved with lightning speed (please excuse the pun), according the John Lewis Salesforce business leader, Lynne Wood. JLP is already an omnichannel success story, and has a robust eCommerce business that ships orders to 38 countries (according to its 2018 Strategic Report). To service those customers, the company uses the Salesforce service cloud, and has 14,000 service cloud users. Simply put, the objective of the Lightning journey was to make it easier to deliver “sustainable value” to customers, according to Wood. 

In moving to Lightning, the company wanted to enable service cloud personas – different presentations of information, depending on the status of the customer service inquiry and the role of the service agent.  According to Wood, the three tenets of the project were:

  1. to improve performance against the promise made to the customers (basically, contacting the customer when you say you’re going to)
  2. identifying the internal “next best action” (providing guidance to the agent on what the best “next step” should be)
  3. and, of course, resolving more problems. 

Salesforce likes to bring new functionality to the marketplace as an “MVP” (minimum viable product) solution, and then reiteratively improve the product based on feedback from clients.  But according to Wood, JLP took a “BPP” (best possible product) approach, by setting up rigorous conference room and A/B testing environments. After the IT team had spent a couple of months on the user interface design, the new Lightning environment began a conference room pilot at the company’s Glasgow facility in January 2018. Both old and new agent consoles were used side-by-side and ease of use was carefully compared.

In April 2018, all 14,000 users across the enterprise were cut over to the new interfaces. At that point (under load conditions) 43 new “bugs” were identified and corrected. Because the new Lightning interfaces are so intuitive and easy-to-use, training took an astounding 45 minutes/user. By May 2018 the new system in its current form was up and operating. Wood cited several measured improvements including faster “AHT” (average handling time), improved “CTO” (contact to order time), and improved “TCO” (total contacts to oder). In plain language, this translates to less time to problem resolution, more orders successfully processed faster, and more satisfied customers. Although Wood made it sound like these achievements were all in a day’s work, the impact on the business hqas been very positive. In fact, www.johnlewis.com’s already excellent “NLP” (net promoter score, a tool used by most Fortune 500 companies to measure the loyalty that exists between a provider and a consumer) has improved. Ultimately, the objective is to achieve a 95% success rate in contacting customers when promised with a resolution to the problem.

Service cloud and marketing cloud integration (linking digital marketing campanies to customer service and enabling a “360° customer view) was in fact is one of the big announcements at Dreamforce 2018. Check out RSR’s coverage of the event at www.rsrresearch.com