In our most recent #SalesforceQA, we caught up with TJ Christensen, Founding Partner and CEO at BlueGator.
TJ talks about how his background in the hospitality industry helped him to co-found a Salesforce Consultancy. TJ also discusses the biggest challenge he experienced in becoming a Salesforce partner and offers advice to others looking to go down this path.
Salesforce Republic (SR): TJ, you’ve spent a lot of time building up your expertise in the Travel, Hospitality & Entertainment industry, could you talk us through your career?
TJ Christensen (TC): Absolutely. As they say at Disney, “It all started with a mouse.” I started my career in hospitality, on the Walt Disney College Program. My time spent with the Disney organisation really set the foundation for what would become a career cantered around travel, hospitality, and most importantly the guest experience. After leaving Disney I held positions at RCI, a time share exchange company, and Wyndham Vacation Ownership, where I helped optimize local market penetration for their resorts.
In 2009, I joined what was then a very small and relatively unknown ticketing company called Accesso, focused on providing eCommerce and ticketing point of sales to venues like the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium and Six Flags Theme Parks. Over the next ten years, I lead global sales and marketing at accesso and helped it grow to become the 3rd or 4th largest ticketing company in the world.
Over that time the company expanded its portfolio outside of core ticketing, to virtual queuing and in-park guest experience, where I had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects focused on driving revenue and guest engagement at some of the best know parks in the world.
In 2020, I co-founded BlueGator with my long time Accesso colleague, Eric Petrusic, where we’re focused on helping venues unlock the power of Salesforce to give hospitality brands data, insights and analytics they need to win faster.
SR: How has that background enabled you to launch BlueGator & why are BlueGator focusing on the Salesforce ecosystem?
TC: Prior to founding BlueGator, I had always been a consumer of Salesforce, but never really appreciated the power of Salesforce as a platform or how robust the ecosystem is.
It’s clearly best known for helping with sales enablement but has amazing capabilities to do so much more for an organszation than track leads and opportunities.
Salesforce’s ability to provide organisations with a true 360 view of the guest is what we’re most excited about. So many businesses operate in silos. Business process silos, and technology silos. We see Salesforce as a way to connect those systems and finally unlock the value of the data the organisation already has.
SR: What was the biggest obstacle or challenge you experienced in becoming a Salesforce partner & what piece of advice would you give for other individuals out there thinking of becoming a partner?
TC: Our biggest obstacle has been to not get distracted by shiny objects. The Salesforce Ecosystem is so big, and the capabilities are so mind blowing. To be successful in the space you must understand what makes your organisation unique, and keep the team grounded around the tools, clients, projects you have in front of you.
For folks looking at becoming a partner, I’d say do it. It is by far the most rewarding, welcoming, collaborative, and innovative community I’ve ever been a part of.
SR: What are you most excited about seeing evolve in the ever-expanding Ecosystem?
TC: I’m really excited about what Salesforce is doing with Tableau and Einstein Discovery. AI predictions directly in Tableau were expected, but Autonomous Insights in Tableau for CRM looks really promising. The pace of innovation in this space specifically is staggering and one I’m keeping a close eye on.
SR: You’re a big believer in technology “being the solution, not the problem” – what is unique about BlueGators approach and how do you add value to your customers?
TC: Again, the issue is silos. Organisations know they have the data, but that data is stuck in disparate systems and they are struggling to figure out a cost-effective way to pull it together.
Digital transformation is hard, and many organisations struggle figuring out where to start. From our perspective revenue is the easiest/quickest/best way to get everyone focused and behind a broader and more complicated digital strategy.
We help organizations focus their efforts around delivering maximum business value first. To get there we break it down into three phases.
- Develop a Strategy: This is where we help organizations figure out what to do. In this phase we’re helping the client assess what will help the client move the revenue needle.
- System Design: This is where we help our clients figure out how to do it with the right products and tools. Here we our goal is to deliver “60 feet of business value with 1 inch of technical lift” by connecting the right system with the right data in the right way.
- Build, Test, Deploy, Repeat: This is where we do the work. Here we focus on building an initial POC based on the strategy and system design and refine/enhance over and over.
SR: We’ve spoken offline about R.F.D.S – could you elaborate on this?
TC: R.F.D.S. is our framework for helping hospitality brands maximize their guest experience through digital engagement. The framework itself is based on RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary) – a marketing analysis tool that many retailers use but lends itself quite well to hospitality with a slight tweak.
R.F.D.S. stands for:
- Recency: provide guests a reason to book now
- Frequency: drive return visitation
- Duration: increase the length of stay
- Spend: spend more per visit
By using a framework like this, hospitality brands no matter what size can start executing tactics that focus the team on how and where to move the needle in a meaningful way.
SR: Finally, as the world restores to the new normality, what is the biggest change you believe a consumer will experience that businesses have to prepare for?
TC: Coming out of COVID hospitality brands are at a significant disadvantage. During the pandemic consumers became 100% digital. The bar for service at your fingertips is exponentially higher now because we all spent the last year doing everything from our phones.
Most hospitality brands on the other hand struggled to stay alive, let alone invest in technology and digital engagement. Now as guests start traveling and visiting theme parks, zoos and museums, those organisations are going to struggle to keep up with new and evolving guest expectations.
If you’re a Salesforce professional and would like to join TJ in our Q&A series, please get in touch with us today!