Where is The Truth? Salesforce Runs Around in Circles on Customer Data

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The News: At Dreamforce 2019 – Salesforce, introduced Customer 360 Truth, a new set of data and identity services that Salesforce claims will enable companies to build a single source of truth across all of their customer relationships.

According to Salesforce, Customer 360 Truth will connect data from across sales, service, marketing, commerce and more to create a single, universal Salesforce ID for each customer. Read the full press release on Salesforce.

Analyst Take: New product announcements are supposed to be hyped up, and nothing brings the hype like Dreamforce. That isn’t a knock – Salesforce knows how to put on an event, even if it does bring San Francisco to its knees – but this news does feel strangely like Groundhog Day.

The reason I say that is at Dreamforce 2018, Salesforce announced Customer 360, or put another way, a product with almost the same name, just minus the “Truth”. Customer 360 only worked with Salesforce customer data and therefore couldn’t deliver a unified customer profile –which essentially defeated the whole point of a CDP – and was supposed to ship in 2019. Anyway, maybe announcing the same product twice is Salesforce’s way of making up for claiming CDPs were a passing fad in 2017.

What is Customer 360 Truth?

In short, Customer 360 Truth is Salesforce’s latest attempt to provide a CDP. This hot category has been a trending topic at conferences from Adobe Summit to Oracle OpenWorld to Microsoft Ignite, and of course the idea of a perfect 360-degree view into the customer has been the holy grail for many years.

In the press release, Salesforce breaks down the offering into the following four discrete services:

  • Customer 360 Data Manager: Delivers the ability to access, connect and resolve a customer’s data across Salesforce and other systems, using a canonical data model and a universal Salesforce ID that represents each customer.
    • Take: This one is interesting and where CIM (later) comes into play. According to Salesforce, using a click-based user interface for app and data management, admins can easily establish trusted connections between data sources to prepare, match, reconcile and update the customer profile. The reconciled profile across apps enables employees to pull up relevant data at the time of need from any connected system. This is obviously a hugely important problem to solve, but saying “easily” makes me feel a bit uneasy as this is always a challenge with big data. The question to ask your Salesforce rep here is: How do you handle structured and unstructured data that lives in non-Salesforce systems?
  • Salesforce Identity for Customers: Removes friction from the login experience and enables a single, authenticated and secure relationship between a customer and all of a company’s websites, e-commerce stores, mobile apps and connected products.
    • Take: This is helpful, but it is not new. Clever retailers, say Amazon, have been doing this for a long time. However, making this available to smaller customers will be valuable. For those not fully familiar with how this will work, it will simplify customer/brand engagement. Rather than a customer having separate logins and profiles that lead to disconnected experiences, using Identify for Customers, they will now have one login across all of a company’s digital properties. This should also help with compliance, security, analytics and reporting.
  • Customer 360 Audiences: Builds unified customer profiles across known data such as email addresses and first party IDs and unknown data such as website visits and device IDs. It then creates customer segments and marketing engagement journeys from those profiles and delivers AI-powered insights, like lifetime value and likelihood to churn.
    • Take: Salesforce says that Customer 360 Audiences goes beyond traditional CDP capabilities and extends the power of CRM to connect customer interactions across various touchpoints in real time to optimize the experience. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what a CDP is supposed to do, so I’m not quite sure what the “Beyond” part is – but hey, it sounds good in marketing collateral. The question to ask your Salesforce rep here is exactly what they mean by “real time.” Specifically, will Customer 360 allow you to use real-time interaction data to inform the customer experiences?
  • Privacy and Data Governance: Enables companies to collect and respect customer data use and privacy preferences, as well as apply data classification labels to all data in Salesforce.
    • Take: This is important because compliance will be massive as companies try to really understand their customers in an omni-channel capacity. Salesforce claims that these capabilities will help customers address obligations from regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), with respect to data governance and customer consent. That’s a big claim!

Customer 360 Truth Not Available, Not a Customer Master

I was not surprised to see it take center stage at this year’s Dreamforce, but I was surprised that it is still essentially a concept and there is no clear guidance on shipping dates. With the likes of Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, Zoho and just about every other competitor in the space delivering 360 customer views with respective CDP platforms today, Salesforce is playing catch up.

The solution itself is definitely a step in the right direction, but unfortunately for Salesforce users, it’s not a customer master for the Salesforce platform, which has always been a Salesforce weakness.

Customer data mastering is a well-known technology that enterprise vendors have been perfecting for decades that Salesforce still lacks. As a result, Salesforce is not able to create a single customer master record across its sales, service, marketing and commerce applications. This is a major issue, as without having a master record or supporting customer record deduplication, data-quality or any of the many related complex processes that are required to manage a true customer master, Customer 360 Truth’s ability to drive better customer experiences will be extremely limited.

Despite some clear blind spots, the launch of Customer 360 Truth was important for Salesforce as it was in the unusual – and likely uncomfortable – position of lagging rivals in the nascent but strategically important enterprise CDP market. The company had to be in on CDP. But all the hype isn’t warranted as it’s really just another CDP that hopes to do what other CDPs already do – and is certainly not a panacea for all master customer data issues.

Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.

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Image: CNBC


The original version of this article was first published on Futurum Research.

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.

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