Verastar re-imagines communications with customers via Salesforce transformation program

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels March 4, 2022
The business services specialist says the cloud-based platform will support product innovation and long-term growth.


Fast-growing business services specialist Verastar Group is using a digital transformation program in conjunction with Salesforce to drive product innovation and improve customer collaboration.

The investment will see the delivery of a single unified CRM system – built on Salesforce and Pardot systems – across all brands within the group.

Verastar CTO Spencer Clarkson says the platform will support the development of new offers for customers of the business, which operates a range of brands including Inspire Payments, The Insurance Octopus, Clear Business and Kinex, that provide eight services to more than 160,000 small businesses:

Salesforce will enable us to launch products and offers, combine services together very quickly, and push out promotions to customers. That's something that we are really looking forward to and we're trying to build that approach into the platform from the core design at the beginning.

Verastar has traditionally relied on letters and email to communicate with customers, but as the company continues to grow and add more services for its clients, it wants to add new ways to communicate and engage with them. That’s where Salesforce’s technology comes in, says Clarkson: 

It’s important for us to have flexibility around digital engagement. So, for example, if they’re a telecoms customer, they don't have to communicate via paper, and if it’s a water customer, they can interact though text messages. We want to give customers the ability to do everything through their digital engagement channel of choice.

Verastar analysed the types of communication it has with customers, whether that’s buying a new product, servicing an existing one, or renewing product sets. His team discovered the types of interactions varied considerably across Verastar services. They were keen to find a solution that brought everything together. Clarkson explains: 

Anyone’s who’s ever been involved with technology companies over the years knows you end up with stove pipe systems if you're not careful. And trying to bring those vertical areas together is quite difficult. But using a single cloud-based platform enables you to break down some of those barriers down and we saw Salesforce as a way to enable us to do that.


Before making the decision to deploy Salesforce, Clarkson recalls that the company had three options. One was to invest in its existing technology stack using the internal digital team; the other two involved an RFP, with a consideration of both Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. The assessment process lasted eight weeks and the vendors ran demonstrations in key business areas. Clarkson’s team assessed the results and created a business case with financial implications for the board last July:

There were multiple levels to the process. It involved the platform itself, the integration piece, and there was voice as well. So, we looked at the whole stack of how we would solve our communication problem – and we worked with multiple vendors on those challenges. We had to look at quite a few options and we created a matrix scoring card and presented that to the board.

The sales team created a microsite as part of the demonstration process. Clarkson says the Salesforce sales team “nailed” the process and understood the challenges that Verastar and its customers faced. He was also impressed by Salesforce’s pricing structure and the flexibility it offered in terms of ongoing technology implementations:

Salesforce felt a little bit further ahead. I've worked with Dynamics and Salesforce before. But Salesforce has really brought its offering on during the past few years, including Lightning Experience and some of their new user interface elements. And the engagement and support from Salesforce was much better. They were willing to get the right people on the call at the right time very quickly.

The implementation involves a long program of work that is being split into smaller elements. The company went live with Pardot first to help it run marketing initiatives for both existing customers as well as new businesses. Customers are being brought onto the platform in stages across service areas such as telecoms, water, energy and insurance:

The biggest challenge with these programmes, with having close to 200,000 customers, is moving all the data. Then there’s training the users, working out the rollout plan, having transitional processes in place – these are the bits that tend to dictate the timeline and not the platform itself. But we'll roll it out over time, as there's around about 700 users on the platform.

Clarkson says the rollout programme is progressing well. He points to support from senior stakeholders at Verastar, such as Chief Executive Lee Hull, who is helping to ensure people across the organisation buy into the initiative:

He's got all of the senior leadership team signed up to this program and they're very supportive and are willing to give way on things that aren’t worth fighting for and for the common good of the overall program.

One of the priorities now, says Clarkson, is to identify ways to accelerate the programme. He says Verastar is investigating how partners might contribute to that effort and the company has also received help from Salesforce around design, diligence and governance:

We're trying to adopt the platform, not adapt it. We want to grab the opportunity and make sure that we build in ‘one company, one platform, one vision’ from the start. It’s about cross selling our products, so we can launch products and bundle things together quite quickly.

As for advice to other CIOs or CTOs following a similar path, he advises they should ensure their teams follow a process of due diligence, so everyone understands the aims of the project:

We're measuring the business case – we know what we're measured against and what they're going to deliver. If you set yourself those goals – and that vision at the start and get that buy-in from your business colleagues – then I think it makes the job of implementing any system a lot easier.

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