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Companies must prepare for ‘internet of customers’ era or risk falling behind, says Salesforce chief

The world is entering an era of “technological renaissance” and companies must prepare for this new “internet of customers” or risk falling behind their competitors, according to Salesforce chairman and CEO Mark Benioff.

Speaking at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco Benioff said there are currently approximately 50 billion connected things in the world, from cars right through to electric toothbrushes, but that companies must remember there is a person behind each connected device and each multichannel touch point.

“It’s a phenomenal time in our industry. In this new world of the internet of customers, consumers are being transformed into customers. You had better be ready to be a customer company – if not there will be another [competitor] to take your place. You must remember that behind all the tweets and all the connected devices in the world there is a customer,” he said.

He called for companies to follow Amazon’s suit and launch an equivalent to its “mayday” button, featured on its new Kindle Fire HDX tablet launched this month.

This may-day button built-in to the tablet connects customers with a free, 24/7/365 technical support via video chat.

“We all have a need to become a customer company and connect with them in a whole new way. The only question is - are you ready to make that change for your customers, and in how you conduct customer service? Do you have a support button on your products like Amazon?,” he said.

He said the main “problem” is the fact that the majority of companies don’t know their customers, referencing an IBM study which highlighted that 66 per cent of companies’ top management admit they don’t understand their customers, while two thirds of them feel unprepared for consumers' current and future expectations and behaviours.

Phillips is one of the most advanced companies in this area, having connected all its devices from ultrasound machines to electric toothbrushes, all of which integrate with Salesforce.

Jeroen Tas, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Phillips told delegates that it can empower people to “take control” of their health via connected technologies.

“We have a vision and a dream to make this a healthier, more sustainable world. We can actually send you a video of a beating heart of your baby via an ultrasound machine, which they can then share with their friends. We believe we can make cities better to live in and reduce energy by 70 per cent, and technology plays a major role there,” he said.

His comments follow the launch of Salesforce’s new platform, which integrates with Google glass. Salesforce1 is the new social, mobile, cloud customer platform, the first customer relationship management (CRM) platform for developers, independent software vendors, end users, and customers to plug into. Dropbox and LinkedIn are among the first to join the platform.