How to break down silos with Salesforce

From Maryville University to Xtreme Lashes, organizations are trying to get beyond data islands to better serve customers.

At Maryville University, president Mark Lombardi is acutely aware that the student experience can be stressful. Registering for classes or deciding on a college major are serious choices. Lombardi doesn't want technology to get in the way.

"I've always said, 'Everything in the classroom should be difficult: challenging, stretching students to their limits,'" Lombardi said. "Everything outside should be easy." But that mantra was difficult to follow with the university's old CRM system, Ellucian. The school needed to break down silos -- and it chose Salesforce to bring student information together.

Before Maryville University switched to Salesforce CRM, information was locked in various departmental systems. "The real impediment to top-quality service and top-quality education is the data silos," Lombardi said. "Our enrollment office collects gobs of data through the admissions process, but faculty, student services, and coaches and athletics aren't privy to it. That information stays locked in enrollment. We had to rediscover all that data."

Salesforce eases university department data silos

Maryville saw the opportunity to get a more comprehensive, 360-degree view of student information to serve the university administratively and academically. But the school needed more modern technology to help stitch the student information together. So it turned to Salesforce to centralize student account information to better meet students' needs and to enhance their experience on campus. Maryville chose the Salesforce Sales Cloud to stitch together data and break down silos.

"We want to create a campus where a student, no matter where they are and with what device, can find out what their bill is, can pay for it, can pay for upcoming athletic events," Lombardi said. "We want to make that accessible."

CRM systems are making an impact in higher education. According to the "2014-2015 State of CRM Use in Higher Education Report," 79%, 80% and 85% of respondents, respectively, said that they spent less time on admissions, student services and counseling services because they had a CRM in place. CRM systems can centralize information and share data to enable campus advisers to better counsel students on a career path or enable the app to give students information on events on a Friday night.

As a result students no longer need to go on a wild goose chase to resolve an issue; they can simply go to one department to change courses or use the app to pay a bill. And student advisory services enable counselors to get a much deeper understanding of student goals. Tools, including Salesforce analytics and ultimately, Salesforce Wave, help advisers evaluate the academic skills and other activities a student wants to pursue. Lombardi said that CRM buyers sometimes consider the superficial benefits, but not the deeper value CRM can bring to an institution like a university.

The real impediment to top-quality service and top-quality education is the data silos.
Mark Lombardipresident, Maryville University

"The mistake is that they think Salesforce is, 'How do you help a student pay a bill faster or get them [athletic event] tickets to the game faster?'" Lombardi said. "But the deeper level is the facilitation of their education and maturing journey."

Lombardi concedes, though, that student experience is a differentiator in higher education. Students will vote with their feet if a school doesn't provide frictionless means for them to participate in campus life and academic services.

Another key reason for moving to Salesforce was that its options are mobile-friendly, which is critical for students on the go. Maryville also plans to provide additional services with the Salesforce Community Cloud, a Salesforce collaboration application that centralizes information, documents and chat.

Lombardi said that the move to mobile is also taking on a new cast with Salesforce Community Cloud. "This is morphing and becoming the Maryville app. It allows a student to decide immediately what groups they want to be a part of."

Salesforce eases the customer journey

Xtreme Lashes, an eyelash extension business, was expanding, but too many data silos were standing in the way of growth. The company, based in Spring, Texas, managed marketing leads, customer data, financials and inventory data in silos, which were becoming a hurdle.

"We had several software applications to manage leads, customers, inventory and financials," Xtreme Lashes president and CEO Jo Mousselli said. "They were integrated, but not as well as we needed them to be."

Xtreme Lashes' struggle is common for companies -- even those on the leading edge and using cloud-based systems. According to Blue Wolf Group LLC's State of Salesforce 2015-2016 survey, 70% of 2,500 Salesforce customers struggle with data integration and data quality.

That patchwork of applications undercut efficiency and new sales opportunities, Mousselli recalled. Previously, integrating information in a customer account and inventory information wasn't seamless.

So Xtreme Lashes turned to Salesforce Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, as well as Salesforce partner applications, like FinancialForce for financials and Ascent for inventory management, to better integrate customer account information with other data essential to creating a comprehensive customer service experience.

Marketing can also be more tailored and personalized to clients' customer journeys. These clients -- who are salons and individual beauty professionals -- can receive targeted emails that reflect their buying stage and educational level with respect to Xtreme Lashes. Beauty professionals, for example, receive training and certification on best practices to apply lash extensions.

The company then uses data about these customer journeys and stages to keep leads and customers engaged and to convert them into new sales opportunities. "From lead to conversion, we are communicating with these beauty professionals back and forth," Mousselli said. "We may send a message that says, 'Congratulations on being trained with Xtreme Lashes. The next step is to get certified.' If they pursue certification, we may send a message saying, 'Congratulations on getting certified. You now have the opportunity to get listed in our directory of lash stylists where we market to consumers so they can find you in local areas.'"

In this way, Xtreme Lashes uses Pardot to target specific messages to customers at particular junctures in their purchasing journey, from initial customer to longer-term client. The first Pardot campaign after Xtreme Lashes brought in Salesforce in November 2015 boosted new client acquisition by 17% year over year.

Decision making in the blink of an eye

Having actionable data in hand is also critical. Mouselli said that because sales reps have access to their progress in Sales Cloud, they are better able to manage leads proactively and try to convert these prospects into customers.

"Every sales rep is empowered with a dashboard; they are seeing how many leads they have, how many have converted to sales," she said. "They can run their own reports. That motivation, that drive of knowing your score and how to manage your own metrics has helped our reps to sell more."

As a result of new marketing campaigns and greater efficiency in the sales process, Xtreme Lashes has also seen a $3 million increase in sales year over year.

Salesforce does present certain licensing challenges for its various clouds, though. Mousselli noted that the company has to make tradeoffs when purchasing licenses. It has to balance cost against broad-based functionality for users.

"We have to select the license that is the most economical to give [staff] access to only the data they need," Mouselli said. "We might want to give somebody more access, but we give them access to the data that they absolutely need. We keep them within a specific license that has the essentials, but doesn't' have the niceties, because upgrading them cost-wise can be too high."

While Maryville and Xtreme Lashes have hewed to Salesforce and the use of data to make better business decisions, Lombardi said that some higher-education institutions have struggled to understand the value of CRM.

"The use of data to provide the best service for students and education is one of best innovations for higher education," Lombardi said." The ones who do it will remake the university of the 21st century. The ones who don't will go down in flames."

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