Gap aims for omni-channel success with Salesforce Service Cloud


Retail giant Gap has created a Salesforce centre of excellence and is implementing Service Cloud to enable better customer care.

Retail giant Gap Inc. – the corporation that owns brands that include Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic – is hoping to shift from a multi-channel experience for its customers towards omni-channel purchasing and service. This will ultimately mean a more seamless experience for those engaging with Gap Inc.’s multiple brands, as well as make life easier for Gap’s customer service agents, which currently have to navigate multiple systems and processes.

Gap is doing this by integrating its current systems and migrating its legacy data over to the Salesforce Service Cloud, a project that is being navigated by the company’s recently established Salesforce Centre of Excellence (CoE).

Gap has implemented a number of Salesforce platforms, including Marketing Cloud and App Cloud, and the CoE aims to establish best practice for its growing ecosystem.

By way of background, Gap Inc. was established back in 1969 and has since grown to include a number of online and offline brands. The company established its catalogue and online business between 1998 and 2000, and has a contact centre that supports its global business.

Terri Voden, senior director customer service at Gap, was speaking at Dreamforce last week in San Francisco, where she outlined the retailer’s ambitions for a more integrated service environment for its future. Voden said:

We want to be where our customers are shopping and visiting us, giving them an all encompassing experience.

Many of us already have a multi-channel customer experience. That experience provides a convenient way for customers to interact with you. But, on the other hand, the multi-channel experience on the back-end can often be really disjointed, with a lot of manual processes, and difficult for us to manage as leaders in customer service.

My team supports phone, email, chat, social media and also the response to various feedback channels for all of our brands. We found ourselves in the situation where our customer service tools we used were segregated.

Agents didn’t always have access to interactions from other channels. Many of our store and online information was stored in separate systems. It required our agents to go into multiple systems, log in, get what you needed, back and forth. It was cumbersome, our handle time was high, and most importantly our customer experience was not smooth.

Voden added that a good portion of the contact centre’s work – which is operated out of two locations in the US, as well as supported by a number of remote workers – was managed through spreadsheets and other manual tools. This meant that measuring any sort of progress was difficult and made responding to customers inefficient and cumbersome.

Gap believes that omni-channel service – as opposed to multi-channel – means data streams are integrated, your queues are across channels and that you are providing a seamless experience to the customer. The ambition is to create a unified view of any customer, at any given time, not matter what brand they are interacting with.

Voden said:

Our contact centre vision centres around having a digital first mindset that leads to an effortless experience. Customers are demanding the ability to interact with us in their channel of choice and also on their device of choice.

They expect our organisation to have a full view of their customer profile, they want us to have a history and knowledge of their experiences, and this extends across shopping channels. For us, it even extends across our brands. Customers may call one brand, but you need to be able to speak to all brands when they contact us. That just increases the complexity of what we’re supporting.

A Salesforce CoE

Voden was joined on stage by her colleague Gary Aliff, senior director of Gap’s Salesforce Practice and delivery lead at Gap Inc. Aliff explained how Gap created a Salesforce CoE to guide the retailer’s Salesforce ecosystem, including the Service Cloud implementation, and gave some insights into how Gap is realising its omni-channel ambitions.

Aliff said:

Why create a centre of excellence? We thought it might be a good idea to create a group of people that are focused on delivering, innovating and governing our Salesforce ecosystem. Because we didn’t have that previously. And we really wanted to take advantage of some of the lessons we have learned over the years, some of the best practices in the industry, and some of the lessons learned by others in the industry.

We also thought it would be a good idea to establish some level of control and governance, but not so much that we disabled federated development.

Gap created its CoE in partnership with PwC, which was established over a period of eight weeks. The retailer conducted a series of interviews and workshops with a wide variety of people within the organisation – business, product development, dev/ops – and allowed itself the time to think about strategy and where it needed to be.

The outcome? A CoE playbook, which has set the foundation for how Gap wants to drive value with Salesforce within the organisation. Aliff said:

There’s all kinds of content in here about how we organise ourselves, what our business capability roadmap is, there’s also a good amount of thinking about how we are going to do the delivery, what we think about our architecture ecosystem. Lots of good content, I could spend hours talking about it.

One of the questions we often get asked is, how did we organise ourselves? I like to say that we are a virtual CoE. There isn’t one person in our CoE that is dedicated full time to centre of excellence only activities. Everyone in the CoE has a day job. And for many of us that day job involves delivery. We set up a programme, we have governance and steering committees, that’s how we organise everybody.

The CoE is organised with a core Salesforce delivery team at the core, which is focused on working on individual projects within the ecosystem – they’re responsible for configuration, prototyping, deployment and go-live. But sitting alongside that team is a dev/ops community, which integrates the legacy data into the Service Cloud console. Then there is also a product management group, a change management group, a training group and a UX group.

The platform

Aliff shared two primary examples of how Gap is using the Salesforce Service Cloud at present – which was only implemented this year. The first example related to an application it called Clientelling. He explained:

Right now if you walk into one of our stores and you decide to opt into a clientele app, we have to ask you for your demographic information. I’m sure all of you have experienced the repetitive nature of providing demographic information to different systems. As soon as we go live with that, we will really start to enable some of that cross platform functionality.

[It’s] a mobile application that allows our store associates to extend their relationship with our customers outside of the confines of the four walls of the store. It currently has three major features – activities, communications and dashboards.

Activities allows the store associate to plan clientelling activities. We need to make sure that they carve out time during their shift to do the activities that we want them to do from a clientelling perspective.

The communication feature allows them to individually, en-mass, or in select groups, blast our communications to the folks that want to opt in and receive those.

Lastly there is dashboards that look at the results of those clientelling activities. We’ve got a pretty robust feature set in the future for clientelling, which includes getting more information about our clients so that we can better target that outreach. We think that in the future it will enable us from an integrated selling perspective, to actually push our customers in the store to the website.

Finally, Aliff shared how the Service Cloud is ultimately making the experience of customer service agents better – the team managed by his colleague Terri Voden. Aliff said that this has been the “real coup” for Gap this year, as it is enabling staff to work more efficiently and get a better view of the customer. He said:

[Voden] has a pretty large contact centre, she has 1,200 agents, who either work remotely or in two geographies. They currently take calls, emails, chats, and respond to social requests. They do that by using or leveraging 20 different systems within the Gap tech ecosystem.

That can be complicated. This time last year, there was no central agent console and so they did a lot of swivel chair. They copy and pasted a lot of information back and forth. Our ultimate objective as we go forward is to integrate as much of that as possible into the Service Cloud console, so that our agents jobs are easier and they conserve more people and less time.

Image credit - AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Disclosure - Salesforce is a diginomica premier partner at time of writing.