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Dreamforce Day 3: Industry Disruption and Marc Benioff’s Angst

Salesforce-Fortune

James AndersonDREAMFORCE ’16 — Businesses must follow their customers’ voices if they want to succeed.

A group of chief executives echoed that advice during the Fortune CEO Series panel on Thursday at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff joined leaders from powerhouse companies like Schneider Electric and Deutsche Bank to discuss how their respective industries are changing.

Many of them are facing significant disruption.

Kim Hammonds, chief operating officer for Deutsche Bank, said the financial-services space is undergoing upheaval as a result of customers demanding that the business match their lifestyles. In this case, the customers don’t want to drive to the bank.{ad}

“Customers are not going to walk to into the branches for the historical experiences that they had in the past,” she said. “Almost 45 percent of our customers now only go into the branch one time a year. And that’s going to be like 70 percent in a couple of years.”

Bernard Tyson, who runs the health-care giant Kaiser Permanente, said a similar trend is impacting his industry.

“Because we were ‘all-knowing, all-mighty, all-everything,’ we built the entire health-care industry where you’d have to come to us,” he said. “So we subjected you to coming to a hospital, coming to a medical office building, or wherever we wanted to practice ‘medicine.'”

He said Kaiser is shifting its practice to emphasizing health, prevention and early treatment, rather than simply making its revenue “fixing” health problems. And it might take the customer-centric model one step further.

“Eventually, I can see hospitals being at homes, that there’s no need for everybody to come into a hospital. The future with technology is going to be that people can be at home. The future of technology is going to be that there are going to be medical wearable devices.”

Benioff said businesses need to be listening to their customers in order to build trust. He brought up Theranos – the blood-testing provider that announced layoffs and location closings on Thursday – as an example of a company with a “trust crisis.”

“You want to stay in that zone where you have trust in your customers and your partners and with your community … you have to get out there and listen to the customers,” he said.

Moderator Adam Lashinsky started the panel by jokingly asking Benioff if he had finished acquiring Twitter backstage. Benioff, who has been trying to …

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… temper rumors that Salesforce is interesting making a bid for the social-media company, played along with the joke but didn’t hear any more questions about the rumors.

Instead, the final question for the cloud pioneer surrounded his very public efforts to make Salesforce a humanitarian company. Much of this year’s Dreamforce conference has emphasized diversity and equality. Salesforce partnered with (Red) to raise money for AIDS relief, Will.i.am used the keynote stage to share his desire to improve education in the inner city, and Bono even took several minutes out of his band’s fundraiser concert to tear into Donald Trump.

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Lashinsky asked why business should feel obligated to work for the good of society.

“Mostly because things are pretty screwed up, and if we don’t all do something together, we’re all going to be in a lot of trouble,” he said. “I certainly didn’t get this in business school, and I certainly didn’t get this when I was working at Oracle.”{ad}

The dig at Oracle is nothing new. Benioff spent 13 years at the company, where he said stock prices continually rose along with a “really empty feeling,” according to Business Insider. He said he wanted the corporation to give back to the community more, and even when the company created a charity, he lamented the lack of cultural change within Oracle.

But that wasn’t the end of the story, and it’s no surprise how Dreamforce has become one of Benioff’s vehicles for social change.


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