Dreamforce 2018 – it pays to check your Salesforce licence usage as Ulster Bank found out

Madeline Bennett Profile picture for user Madeline Bennett September 26, 2018
Ulster Bank underwent a major refresh to encourage staff to use the technology it had invested in.

Ulster Bank
Ulster Bank has been a long-term Salesforce customer, installing the CRM system back in 2008. The problem was, that for the first eight years of its implementation, the software was being totally under-utilized.

The early Salesforce system sat within the business and was being fed by data that wasn't fit for purpose. New instances weren’t being updated and the business didn't really understand what Salesforce could actually do.

Jim McCormick, Head of Commercial Excellence and Customer Insights at Ulster Bank, explains:

There was no training, the data was poor. We've got the 'Rolls Royce of CRM', however we are feeding it with diesel. We had over 400 licenses. The first thing we actually did was, we looked at activity on the licenses and it was startling. There were relationship managers (RMs) who hadn't logged on in a year. So we realized that over 60%t of these licenses were not being used.

This assessment was prompted by the arrival of Maeve McMahon, Marketing Director at RBS, who decided to move the Salesforce implementation from within the business to the Commercial Excellence department when she joined the company in 2015.

McMahon had experience of using Salesforce during her time at GE, and so could see the opportunity for development of the platform rather than throwing it out and starting afresh with something new. RBS, the firm’s parent company, uses Microsoft Dynamics and Pega Systems, along with multiple others, and Ulster Bank did look around to consider other replacements for the Salesforce system, but for the firm to get to market quickly, it decided to focus on fixing the basics. McMahon says:

When we dug into the data, it was clear people weren’t using Salesforce properly. We needed to change the mindset and the approach.

Ulster Bank decided to relaunch the platform with clean data and provide training for all users. McCormick explains:

The majority of banks will often have disparate data sets - credit cards in one system, mortgages in another – there are all these different platforms. Rather than try to centralize, where you spend a huge amount of money and servers and hardware, we said the RM does not need all that data.

So we went through the different disparate data sets. We cherry-picked data, we created ETLs and we brought them all into one place. We cleaned them and we created a single customer view data cube, which linked all the products. So for the first time ever, an RM will have a composite picture of their business customers. This was the first time ever.

To ensure the licenses weren’t going to waste again this time, Ulster Bank created around 20 Salesforce Brand Ambassadors among its RMs, people who understood what the benefits of the system could be and could then pass that onto their own staff. McCormick explains:

We looked at a day in the life of a CRM or Relationship Manager and then we turned around and said, 'OK, so you spend two hours doing this, did you know that Salesforce can do that in five minutes?'.  So we went down through their pain points and we worked with the Salesforce guys to say in simple lay terms, 'How can we fix this, how can we use Salesforce to remove these pain points? '. We shaved six hours of dull admin off the job.


The timing of the upgrade project just happened to coincide with the early days of Salesforce’s artificial intelligence (AI) efforts, and Einstein was very much in its infancy. This meant Ulster Bank could work alongside Salesforce to build its own bespoke Einstein. McCormick says:

So we worked with Salesforce and created probably the first in the world AI model for next best product or what should I be talking to my customer about? So we have good data, a single customer view, clean data, Salesforce sitting on top of it and an AI, which was actually using all this good information and working with the RMs to actually say here's what you need, who you need to contact, what you need to contact them for.

While the improvements for staff have been a great win, McMahon is keen to point out the key aim of the Salesforce project was supporting the bank’s aim to be number one for customer service, trust and advocacy:

I set up this division, which was Customer Commercial Excellence and Insights, so that we could really understand what our customers were doing, how they were behaving. If that's our vision - to be the number one bank for service, trust and advocacy - how do we enable that and clearly it starts and ends with the data, how do we understand customers needs, wants, and then how do we deliver that in a way that's not intrusive to the customer.

Ulster Bank switched on AI with next best product in 2016, along with the updated Salesforce platform. Today there are no wasted licenses now; everyone is using it as the software has removed so many pain points. While RMs were spending days doing file reviews on a spreadsheet, now it can just be done at the touch of a button.

The company has also moved up 15 points in the Net Promoter Score (NPS) over the last three years to become the number one bank in the region, thanks to the slicker technology and focus on customer service, trust and advocacy. As McCormick notes:

In banking terms that’s massive. There’s daylight between us and our next nearest competitor.

Now the firm is talking to Mulesoft for its next possible move. McMahon says:

The whole Mulesoft and integration capabilities that Mulesoft offers is interesting, because if you think about a world of open-banking APIs, if we have this integration ability through APIs, you’re building the capability to have an innovation ecosystem much, much quicker than actually we could have seen it before.

He adds:

That’s not only for us but for all banks, it’s a logical step. Success for us is not just linking together your financial products, but linking together everything the customer wants, be it the lifestyle, the financial behavior, the social, if the customer wants it we should try and deliver it. Mulesoft will help us.

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