By: Jane Huntington, Head of Applications Development & Support at Guide Dogs U.K.
I’m a bookworm, and have been from a very young age. I love reading. But it’s not just about the visual, it’s the whole experience—the way the book feels in my hands, the weight of it, the texture of the pages, the ‘book smell’! There is nothing more magical for me than picking up a book and travelling entire universes through its pages. The pictures in my head, and the ability of a book to stir emotions are particularly profound.
But what if you have a visual impairment? What if the black text on a gleaming white page makes your head hurt to try to put the words together? What if the text size is impossibly small? How do you learn to love books, how do you access the magic?
This is where Guide Dogs U.K.’s CustomEyes Books service comes in: A service that allows members to order children’s books tailor-made to each kid’s unique visual needs. The really best part? It costs the same amount as the average book in a bookstore.
Digitising Operations for a Better Customer Experience
While we’ve been creating these CustomEyes books since 2012, the process of marketing its product to those who need it most, making it easy to place an order online, and then shipping those orders across the U.K. hasn’t been easy. In short, our team who works on our CustomEyes service has been merely managing instead of thriving. To enable them to do more than just manage this important service, the team needed to digitise and streamline its operations in order to turn this important product into a thriving service.
Here were our main priorities in making this digital transformation:
- Create an online bookstore for members to easily search and browse the thousands of titles available.
- Choose and customise book recommendations based on a member’s purchase history, and then save those custom preferences to make ordering more books easy.
- Allow customers to order and pay for their books in one system, making it easier for both the members and the production team. No transfer of information required; it’s already there.
The customer-facing side of Experience Cloud allowed us to present information we hold in our core systems—like book titles and customer information—directly to our customers. Customer information is managed in one place, improvements are made in one place, and we can even publish what we do as an actual app available in an app store!
Easy-to-Use Interface Boosts Orders by 59%
We were fortunate to work with an amazing Salesforce partner, Advanced Communities, which did much of the initial development for us pro bono, updating their e-commerce app to meet our specific requirements around product categories and subcategories and to ensure that the design is accessible and can be used with ease with magnification and screen reading software.
The feedback has been great—from the customers who have found the shop easy to use, to the production team who now get notified of an order instantly. Beyond the improved functionality and ease of use, the data speaks for itself. Orders have increased by 59% with the number of books per order also significantly increasing. Donations are up, too—currently, 23% of orders include a donation between £1 and £15.
The advantages of having this end-to-end-service are that we can respond quickly to customer feedback and more efficiently improve the entire system. The production team has control over what books are available, they can see any books they want to feature, and they can add members quickly and easily to the store via a welcome email with a link to create their store login. With World Book Day fast approaching, the team is able to feature books and easily change what our members see when they log in to the book shop!
Going through this process with CustomEyes has demonstrated the importance of having one unified CRM platform with detailed data insights that ensure our staff is working from the same page at all times. Our next goal is to enable new customers to create their account directly in the store so we can deliver a better customer experience and more personalised marketing.
Guide Dogs U.K.’s mission is simple: to help people with a visual impairment live the life they choose. Offering visually-impaired children more choices through services like CustomEyes may seem a small thing, but to a child learning to read it’s everything—and a stronger digital infrastructure enables us to deliver these life-changing tools to children who need them most.
Register now to attend Salesforce.org’s Nonprofit Summit on April 21 where you’ll hear more from the team at Guide Dogs U.K. and other incredible nonprofits doing life-changing work.
About the Author
Jane has enjoyed over twenty years working in the U.K. Charity sector in fundraising and IT teams championing data and technology. She’s driving efficiency and product value with a fantastic committed team of business analysts, data experts, developers, and assistive tech experts to make a difference every day. She was born on the Isle of Wight and is currently based in the West Midlands with her husband, three boys, and two guide dog mums.
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