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While weddings are all about capturing and bottling emotions on "that special day," companies in the industry are subject to a different kind of pressure from the bride. They must create unique experiences through hyper-efficiency and no-nonsense uses of technology.
At George Street Photo & Video LLC, which caters to the wedding market and is based in Chicago, Michelle Mantel, the president of the company, originally wanted to be a wedding planner but found her way to the company via marketing roles. Mantel and George Street have been using Salesforce.com for customer relationship management since 2011.
When Mantel discussed the role of Salesforce in serving customers, she stressed the importance of the CRM platform's ability to scale up and streamline processes as the company grew. The company has doubled the number of weddings it services every year since its founding in 2004 and has expanded into 55 markets throughout the country.
Mantel has connected the dots on the fact that industries like hers survive by using technology to enhance and manage customer experience. "We're constantly creating new and better and faster ways to do things on the back end so it's easier for clients to manage weddings," Mantel said. "Our photographers and videographers can log into Salesforce to see all the details of the wedding, then click on a button and get directions to the venue."
You got into George Street Photo & Video after being in marketing, but also after wanting to be a wedding planner. Does your role at George Street share aspects of the job of a wedding planner?
Michelle Mantel: When I first came into my role with the company, I advised clients on the photography timeline for each section of their wedding, which naturally led to answering questions regarding timing for the entire day. Additionally, I helped couples pinpoint the best photo locations in their area and assisted with organizing transportation for photographers and videographers. Now we have an entire team helping our clients work through those details.
How has Salesforce helped provide more efficient service for customers?
Mantel: Salesforce has automated repetitive back-end tasks that were previously manual and time-consuming. For example, we now have marketing automation capabilities. We can respond to our clients immediately, as soon as they show interest. Before we were manually emailing and had jerry-rigged Outlook Business Contact Manager so we could manage when we should reply to clients. But to be able to set that up and forget it, in SalesForce and Pardot, is a real bonus.
Now our team can devote more time to ensuring that couples receive the highest-quality photography and videography services [instead of focusing on tasks that aren't core to the business].
Was having a cloud-based application a big part of choosing Salesforce in 2012?
Mantel: We want all our applications to be cloud-based. We even want our video editing to be in cloud. It's no small task, though. The file sizes are so huge, so it can [create latency issues with editing].
Was there any resistance to a cloud-based CRM application?
Mantel: Our target market is a young crowd. Our company is very young as well. Every now and then, we'll have a mother of a bride who will want to hand-sign a contract and mail it in. We can accommodate that, but it's not the norm.
How have you used the social networking capabilities in Salesforce?
Mantel: The social interaction may start with a salesperson asking marketing to find an image to show a client. Then that thread may involve a salesperson putting in notes so that when a customer service rep talks to them, they can see what sales and the client talked about at their appointment. Then the customer service rep can put in notes so that the photographer can see that a client wants to bring a puppy to a session, for example.
If employees had to email with a note every time they had a significant conversation with a bride, there is no way they could handle all that. By putting it in Chatter, it's right there next time you look at the client account. It's immensely helpful.
What is the best advice you can give to the mother of the bride in the course of planning a wedding?
Mantel: It's so easy to get caught up in the details, but it's important to remember what weddings are all about: making memories that you can treasure forever. That's why we always encourage parents to have fun and soak in every moment of the day.