Eurostar has rolled out Salesforce CRM to improve customer service for passengers, replacing a number of applications including Oracle RightNow.

The high speed rail service previously relied on up to 13 applications for call centre staff to deal with customer complaints, during and after a call. According to Eurostar's CIO, Antoine de Kerviler, the introduction of a Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) system allowed the company to improve management of complaints and simplify some of its processes, freeing up time on calls to help improve the service.

"The aim is to provide a better service to our customers. Instead of our staff wasting 20 seconds concentrating on switching applications, they can spend it listening to customers," he said at the Salesforce1 World Tour in London last week.

"It is a big difference – it means that they don't have to wait for the computers, they can give advice about things to do in Paris, for example, and give a much better service. It helps to generate more business by having better relationships with customers - if customers are happy they will come back and they will recommend you, and they won't go to the competition."

Salesforce was implemented over the course of nine weeks, going live in December 2013, after completing migration of 300,000 customer records. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform is now used for all customer complaints and case management, directly replacing three in-house built applications and software from RightNow, a CRM provider bought by Oracle in 2011.

According to Kerviler, one of the main drivers to replace RightNow was the upgrade cycle for the software, which could have resulted in customised features of the software being lost.

"We were two versions behind the normal version cycle and it was not supported any more so we needed to upgrade," he said. "A number of customisations had been made, and there were no guarantees that the customisations would live through the upgrade. So you are forced to look for another solution."

He said that there are a number of benefits of using Salesforce. One is the speed of deployment, which is significantly quicker than other providers.

"Looking at the market you either have the choice to do it in months or weeks with Salesforce – and the price is not significantly different if you look at the total cost of ownership. Salesforce is more expensive, but so are other tools if you look at the maintenance and all of the customisation."

Another is the ability to make changes to the system once it is live. Kerviler gives the example of major service disruption on the Eurotunnel during Easter this year, when 14 out of 44 Eurostar trains were cancelled, impacting many customers.

He says that, in the past, updating its systems to handle customer complaints would have required significant work.

"We couldn't place a specific process at the call centre to handle these cases [before Salesforce]. To do that they needed to have a modification in their system. With Salesforce, from the idea until it was done, took less than two days. There is no way you can do that with other systems, because they are not designed to do that – Salesforce is a cloud system and it is able to be extended."

Salesforce UK data centre

According to Kerviler, concerns around data privacy or data sovereignty were not a prohibitive factor for using the cloud with Eurostar. However he said that the prospect of Salesforce opening a UK data centre will have a number of benefits for the company in terms of meeting new and old regulations.

"It will make it even easier for us to comply. The data privacy rules are going to get stronger and stronger in the future because there will always be abuse on one side, so the regulator will make stronger rules," he said.

"In addition there are new laws on immigration, which may require that we store more information about our passengers, and that information will need to be stored in the UK."