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Doing business sustainably means keeping your word

Trust in Transformation

Petra Jenner is Country Manager of Salesforce Switzerland and Eastern Europe. She talks to PwC Switzerland about the strategic dimension of digital transformation, agility as a guiding principle, positive brand experiences and the relevance of upskilling and transparency for trust-based relationships, as well as about how we are measured by the promises we make.

A few years ago, you said in an interview that you see yourself more as a businesswoman than as a manager. In what way?

Sustainable business is a subject which is very close to my heart. Managers are geared towards maximising efficiency and profit, while businessmen and women focus on sustainability. For example, they are able to create a corporate culture, organisational structures, offerings and customer relationships that endure in the long term. This is more important today than ever. In this sense, I still stand by the statement I made back then. 

Salesforce has experienced rapid growth. What makes your company so successful, and what makes it stand out?

I think what’s needed is a good mix of economic ambition and strategic foresight. Salesforce has an impressively strong value structure. This includes trustworthiness in dealing with data and customer information, a constant striving for innovation and a consistent focus on customer success. The subject of equal opportunities has also become increasingly important in the last few years. These are values that we are still living up to after 20 years in business. We established a culture of strong values from the very first day. Our success proves us right. In 2020 we were ranked fourth in the international list of World's Best Workplaces™ from Great Place to Work. In 2021, Salesforce was also placed sixth in Best Workplaces™ Switzerland.

What makes Salesforce attractive for employees?

As I said before, it’s our consistent focus on strong values. And, added to that, our “giving back” mentality. Accordingly, we don't just want to post profits – we also want to contribute to society. It’s the younger generations in particular who are committed to issues such as sustainability or equality. For example, during the pandemic we made a conscious effort to focus on the health of our employees. We wanted them to remain healthy and not rush back into the office as soon as possible. This positive commitment releases a great deal of energy and team spirit among our employees and binds them to our company.

Software-as-a-Service is an agile business model. How would you describe agility, and how important is it for Salesforce?

We grow with our customers’ businesses – and vice versa. In my view, agility is needed in thinking, acting and in processes. It is essential for our customers and for ourselves, since we are in a constant state of economic and social transformation. Without agility, we have no opportunity to address megatrends and new issues and successfully take them up in the long term.

Regarding transformation: the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation. How can companies succeed in this respect?

This is one of the key business issues. We think that companies need to work out their vision and their objectives here as well as establishing what exactly needs to be transformed. Not every business model can be implemented in the digital world. Our customers often struggle to find answers to these questions.

Digital transformation is a process with many stages and iterations. It requires far-sighted strategic planning. The pandemic showed that anyone who had dealt with these issues at an early stage saved a lot of time and was able to survive. Nevertheless, I am convinced that it’s never too late to address the issues.

So why is it so difficult?

Because transformation is a complex matter. As businessmen and women, we need to think about transformation on a number of levels: customers, employees, processes, offerings. This multilayered perspective is essential for a successful digital transformation.

We realise that companies might define their digitisation objectives but not take their people on this journey with them. Technology can certainly create the ideal conditions for digital business models. But unless employees fill these with appropriate topics, the digital transformation won’t last. That’s why it should also be a key issue for management and HR, who need to support their staff with upskilling programmes to help them acquire new skills and abilities. For example, looking after an online shop requires a completely different skill set to managing a boutique. It’s true that some experience can be transferred, but new skills are still required. This is why lifelong learning is becoming a reality.

How has the relationship with the customer changed and how will it continue to change?

How a customer experiences a brand is becoming increasingly crucial. This is another area which is developing a lot and which is constantly expressing new demands and needs. Companies need to build up a consistently good experience chain. The customer should be able to have a similarly positive experience of the brand at all times and across all channels. A lot of things can be done with technology, but this requires the integration of different data sources and disciplines such as market research, marketing, sales, category management and others. This task will keep us busy for a while. Because in an increasingly digital world, we are battling for people’s attention. Time is a rare and precious commodity these days.

How is this dialogue being transformed?

It is becoming increasingly individualised. Offerings should be tailored to the customer and information should be relevant. Most people today are already overwhelmed by the overload of data and information. For companies, this means that they need to tell their messages and stories in a very targeted way to make sure they stay in the conversation with customers and employees.

What roles are played by artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing in this?

AI can help in communicating with specific target groups. It is essential for a sustainable customer relationship. For example, AI is currently used in the staff suggestion scheme to check which suggestions might be of interest for new regions or customer segments to be developed. Quantum computing is the next level which we need to reach to make even better use of AI and manage the immense volumes of data in the future.

When we talk about data, we should also talk about transparency. To what extent is this connected with transformation and trust?

There is one currency all over the world which is priceless, and it's called trust. Even though so many interactions take place digitally, it is trust that makes good relationships. That’s why we need to build up trusting relationships with our customers and employees. This is far more challenging today than it was just a few years ago. After all, we have far more digital points of contact than before, which is why data security and data protection are taking centre stage.

Transparency engenders trust and strengthens relationships between customers, employees and the company. To create transparency, companies have to disclose how they protect data and information and how they train their employees in data security. Because we, as companies, are measured by what we say. If we at Salesforce claim that we put customers at the centre of our endeavours, then we also need to ensure that those customers actually become more successful with our services. This brings us back to the question you asked at the start. In my view, doing business sustainably is defined by keeping your word.

Petra Jenner, thank you for talking to us today.

About Salesforce

Salesforce is a world-leading provider of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions, and enables companies regardless of size or sector to achieve digital transformation and obtain a 360° view of their customers. Further information about Salesforce is available from www.salesforce.com/uk.

André Abreu, CEO and Co-Founder of Alaya

About Petra Jenner 

Petra Jenner is passionate about digital business models, Industry 4.0 and leadership issues in the new world of work. The qualified business economist and business informatics specialist has held a number of managerial roles at international software companies in Central and Northern Europe. Before moving to Salesforce, Petra Jenner spent seven years working as Country CEO and General Manager for Microsoft. Petra Jenner joined Salesforce in 2016 as Vice President Innovation & Transformation Europe. Since February 2021, she has been responsible for Salesforce Switzerland and Eastern Europe as General Manager and Senior Vice President.

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Andreas Staubli

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