Sparks from a sparkler

Salesforce can do what?!

I’m often surprised by how many companies are paying for Salesforce user licensing but not using this powerful development tool for business needs beyond simple CRM.

Any time you’re creating a new business system that you’re asking your employees to use, you’re incurring overhead.  Some are straightforward costs, and others are easier to miss. Consider the direct monthly cost per user of a PaaS platform, or the costs for servers, OS licensing, electricity, server administration, and application support for on-premise systems. For a server-based system, the future cost of updating applications to work with new server OS releases or database versions can be surprising.

Custom apps on Salesforce can decrease the total cost of ownership of an application, financially and frustration-wise.  If all users for a new application have full Salesforce licenses, the incremental platform cost of the new application is zero. There are no new user credentials to administer, and no new security infrastructure to maintain.  People who are already in Salesforce every day will know 95 percent of how a new application works without having to learn a new user interface, or log in to yet another system and remember yet another password.

The built-in functionality, reduced infrastructure, and rapid development potential make Salesforce a robust tool for building apps.  It’s an excellent platform for business applications, even if they’re not straightforward CRM customizations.  Here are some real-life examples of Salesforce apps in action:

An Android tablet app for targeted content marketing

To better sell its products, a large financial services company wanted to gather data about potential small business customers, including business type, social media presence, types of services offered, and business goals. The result would be a custom document with specific product recommendations. The rules that govern recommendations and text on the customized document are very complex and change often based on changes to products and marketing materials.

Because the app would already be connecting to Salesforce often, and since the rule relationships were very complex, we built the entire rules management interface and version control system in Salesforce, which turned out to be a big win. The app extensively uses data from the Accounts and Opportunities in Salesforce, and all of the answers to questions and recommendations are written back to Salesforce after they’re generated.

The app owner already knew Salesforce, so she understood most of the rules management interface as soon as it was built.  We needed over 15 custom objects to store the rules and version control information, but it allows the application to be completely flexible. The rules can be managed simply by someone who knows Salesforce. It also allows for many of the standard Salesforce data manipulation tools, like the Apex Data Loader, to be used in rules management.  More than 1,000 of the client’s sales staff use the application.

Data Tracking for Patient Billing

A large medical practice needed a set of legacy PHP data collection applications moved to a new platform in one month, following an internal audit that exposed security risks.  Over two weeks, we met, prototyped the app, and began user testing, all without adding new overhead to their IT team. Salesforce avoids having to spin up servers and build complex security infrastructure from scratch, allowing us to deliver business value fast.

Customer Retention Repricing Tool

As part of its customer retention strategy, one of our clients wanted to build a tool that would house prearranged offers, so that if a customer called in wanting to switch to a competitor, the agent could negotiate a better solution for them on the spot, like a lower overall price or a different transaction structure. We built a tool that provides a semi-scripted experience, so  the agent can go through the different pricing methods methodically as they discuss the customer’s needs.  As the agent traverses the paths through the pricing options and levels, the order of offers and the way they are presented is tracked, plus any notes that the agent makes, and connected with the customer’s Account record.

This produces historical reporting on what was offered to the customer and product management reporting to track the impact and appeal of different pricing strategies.

We’re currently working on an enhancement that integrates the repricing tool with the client’s back-end systems to automatically reconfigure the customer’s pricing based on the selections made in this tool.  This is a great example of using the Salesforce platform when much of the data the app needs is already in Salesforce, and all of the users already have Salesforce licenses, and they’re already using Cases in Salesforce every day anyway.

Sample Request Fulfillment

The sales reps in the specialty chemicals division of a manufacturer received and fulfilled requests from their customers’ R&D facilities for chemical products samples. All this was managed through an outdated and unwieldy web-based system. The sales team used Salesforce already, and all of the requests were related to existing Accounts, Contacts and Opportunities, so a Salesforce custom app was an easy solution.  The only additional licenses or training required were for the sample fulfillment team. Sales and fulfillment teams found the new sample request system easier to use and more powerful than their old system.

Class Registration for a Nonprofit Performing Arts School

The school was using the Nonprofit Success Pack we had implemented for them for fundraising management, and many donors were also parents of students.  Leveraging existing apps on the Salesforce AppExchange, combined with some custom programming, we built a class registration system on top of Salesforce. Registration, parent and student information, credit card payments, and class rosters and management, are all running through Salesforce.  Because of the power of the out-of-the-box Salesforce functionality, they got a very custom registration system at a far lower cost than building a system from the ground up, and it integrates seamlessly with the data the school already had.

Order Fulfillment for a Real Estate Services Company

The client had a very old web-based Classic ASP application that they wanted rebuilt as a modernized Java application.  After looking at the requirements, we realized that much of what their old application did was built into Salesforce.  We rebuilt the application as a custom Salesforce CRM implementation for about half the cost of rebuilding it in Java, and the Salesforce licenses were so much less expensive than the server hosting for the old application that the entire implementation was paid for in lower hosting costs in 18 months.

So if you’re using Salesforce only for CRM, take a look at what else you can do with this valuable tool. Let me know if you’d like me to brainstorm with you.

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