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A Salesforce experience: Integrating a leading business tool

GCOMM embarked on a software review over the past several months looking for the right business tool. As part of this review, we looked very closely at our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. In most organisations the CRM represents the primary interface for sales and customer service related functions, so it’s a critical piece of software that needs to integrate deeply within your organisation.

Choosing the right CRM and getting through data migration

Without wanting to go into the detailed ins and outs of why GCOMM selected Salesforce, suffice to say the Salesforce platform demonstrated rapid deployment and access to an extensive selection of deeply integrated, globally market-leading software solutions.

Of course with the transition from one CRM system to another, you will inevitably have a steep learning curve for staff and the unavoidable complexities of data migration. In this respect Salesforce provides an interface that is intuitive and natural, meaning the uptake of the solution has been very rapid in our organisation. The tools provided as part of Salesforce for data migration are also well thought out and give you the control you need to make your data work.

Running an organisation such as GCOMM requires the full focus of our staff, so distractions caused by software transitions to new business tools are not to be taken lightly. With GCOMM’s operation expanding into Serbia, we were able to dedicate and transfer a staff member to Australia to focus on this transitional period. Because Salesforce is 100% cloud based it is easily accessible from everywhere, so our Serbian team members continue to be our administrators for all future change requirements from abroad.

Challenges faced

There are a few hurdles to overcome in relation to Salesforce that our experience has made us well aware of. Firstly, there is no structured on-boarding and implementation assistance provided. This means that if you don’t have dedicated resources and expertise in-house to commit to the software, it’s going to operate like a very expensive digital rolodex. Partnering with someone who has implemented Salesforce previously will save you significant time and deliver you the results you need, quickly.

Secondly, Salesforce is not just a CRM. Rather it’s a whole development platform where there is countless third party applications all designed to solve unique problems. In isolation, Salesforce may look fairly simple from the outset but the power of the platform provides endless capabilities for streamlining and automating your organisation. We are just starting our journey to where we would like the platform to go.

Features of a leading business tool

I thought I would share with you a list of the tool’s features we have implemented and how it’s improved our business operation:

  1. Web-to-Lead – This is effectively a window from our Web Site into the CRM platform. We have forms on our websites that collect traffic and we map the lead form data into the CRM. In simple terms, prospects visit the website, they decide to leave some data and then this data is automatically inserted into the CRM for marketing and sales intelligence.
  2. Sales teams – We operate our sales functions in teams and this is reflected in Salesforce as well, to reinforce the desired team behaviour. From here we were able to create budgets, revenue types, pipelines and sales logic that manage leads from inquiry to closure.
  3. Chatter – This is the enterprise social media application that comes with Salesforce. Being able to unify an organisation beyond email is really starting to make inroads at GCOMM. Most organisations are flooded by emails both internally and externally. Salesforce Chatter seeks to create a new way of communicating more effectively. We created groups based on themes. These are in principle chat rooms whereby specific topics can be shared among its members. Chatter has been particularly effective at connecting our remote staff to the daily operation of the business.
  4. Calendar synchronization – This is a great feature whereby we synchronised the Microsoft Exchange calendars of the team making it easy to see when they have appointments, holidays and meetings all from within the CRM. It makes operational transparency very simple.
  5. Document repository – We uploaded all of our key documents, procedures, templates and reports to the simple unified Salesforce document repository portal. The simplicity of a single interface and powerful search function to retrieve documents has been a great time saver for our business.

Successful integration throughout the business

Support ticketing integration – For all of our ticketing we implemented a pre-integrated solution as part of the Salesforce partner offering, called Zendesk. It uses the Salesforce API to communicate directly with our customer data. It means our account managers can easily see tickets in the CRM without having to enter into the ticketing system.

All device access – We made a decision some time ago to use iPhones extensively across the organisation. Both Salesforce and Zendesk have clients for IOS, which means that we can access the applications from all iPhone and iPad devices.

We have a long term vision for how we would like Salesforce to work within GCOMM. By partnering with a world leading platform, we have already experienced tangible productivity improvements and learnt best practice behaviour that global organisations can teach.

I expect it will take more than a year before we really get Salesforce working to its full potential and continue the integration with our operational billing systems. I will keep posting articles as we expand our use of the CRM and share with you our experiences. Feel free to comment below or write to me if you have any questions.