Salesforce as a Customer Success Platform

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Jeff Heckler
Jeff Heckler Member, CS Leader Posts: 80 Expert
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edited December 2021 in CS Technology

Why don't we see more about Salesforce as a CSP from:

1. SFDC, themselves

or

2. the CS market and community?

I'd love to hear your experiences, takes, and input.

Disclaimer: I don't have a horse in this race, I am simply interested in the consensus.

Thanks,

Jeff

Jeff Heckler
Director of Customer Success Solutions
Maketsource, Inc.

Comments

  • Mary Rosberg
    Mary Rosberg Member Posts: 14 Contributor
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    edited December 2021
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    When we just started into CSM, we used Salesforce for years in that capacity. It was our go-to because we already were using it for the Support org. We did a lot of hacks to make it work for CSM... When Support moved off SFDC to Zendesk, we began to seriously consider other Customer Success platforms. When the CSM team grew, and our customer base grew in terms of tiers and complexity, we moved out of SFDC and into a proper CSP.

    Happy to share more if you'd like.
    Best,
    Mary


    1. SFDC, themselves

    or

    2. the CS market and community?

    I'd love to hear your experiences, takes, and input.

    Disclaimer: I don't have a horse in this race, I am simply interested in the consensus.

    Thanks,

    Jeff

    Jeff Heckler
    Director of Customer Success Solutions
    Maketsource, Inc.

  • Rita Rammohan
    Rita Rammohan Member Posts: 3 Seeker
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    edited December 2021
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    Hi Mary!  

    I'm curious to know which CSP you've found the most success with.  Currently, I'm using all sorts of hacks to make Hubspot work for my team.  I'd appreciate your feedback.  

    Thanks.

    Best,
    Rita
  • NickH
    NickH Member Posts: 9 Contributor
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    edited December 2021
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    Hi Rita,

    I would actually be interest in how you are using hubspot and making ti work for you currently. My work has just introduced the CSM role and I am new to it and also new to hubspot. I'm trying to see how I can get the most from it until I can see if they will look at a dedicated CS system.

    Regards
    Nick
  • Billy Davidson
    Billy Davidson Member Posts: 2 Navigator
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    edited December 2021
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    We currently use Salesforce at my company, and it gets the job done for what it's worth. It can be time consuming customizing certain dashboards/views, and for that reason I'd love for us to test out a CS platform (e.g. Gainsight, ChurnZero) and integrate with Salesforce. Personally speaking, I can say that's why it may not be held to a higher regard as a dedicated Customer Success platform.

    Thanks,
    Billy
  • Sally Donaldson
    Sally Donaldson Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    edited December 2021
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    I just started with a company who has hubspot as our CRM. I'll be honest I find it clunky and frustrating (I have specific examples but if I start on that rant I won't end!). I won't be using it as a CSP. As an interim for managing customer activities and for playbooks I'm thinking of using Asana, while holding overall health scores and use case info on hubspot.
  • Steve Bussey
    Steve Bussey Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    edited December 2021
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    SFDC is alive and well in this space, at least in the sense that a lot of customer activity / health data originates from the CRM. And a lot of people use SFDC for that.

    I think the biggest problem with SFDC as a CSP is that it requires very heavy customization / employee experience in order to utilize it for different use cases. Building out the right dashboards, creating a good customer health score, etc. Those things basically require full-time employees to manage. And then making changes to those initiatives can take a bit of time as it's a process.

    There's a good bit of power in consolidation though. If you consolidate everything into SFDC and make the investments required to be successful, then you can have a good CSP and customer center. But it's a big ask.
  • Mary Rosberg
    Mary Rosberg Member Posts: 14 Contributor
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    edited December 2021
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    Started with Strikedeck for a year. Moved to Gainsight. Happy to DM you my thoughts on both thus far, if it'd be useful. Happy Monday!


  • Kristal Penner
    Kristal Penner Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    edited December 2021
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    Hi Rita,
    I'd also love to know what you're doing with Hubspot, and the main challenges.   I just joined a new company that uses it, and am going to be working very soon on how to make it work for CS.  Thanks!

    Kristal
  • Jeff Heckler
    Jeff Heckler Member, CS Leader Posts: 80 Expert
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    edited December 2021
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    Thanks for the input, @Steve Bussey.

    I've found the same challenges with Gainsight: administration/overhead, resources, and customization.


    Why don't we see more about Salesforce as a CSP from:

    1. SFDC, themselves

    or

    2. the CS market and community?

    I'd love to hear your experiences, takes, and input.

    Disclaimer: I don't have a horse in this race, I am simply interested in the consensus.

    Thanks,

    Jeff

    Jeff Heckler
    Director of Customer Success Solutions
    Maketsource, Inc.

  • Jeff Heckler
    Jeff Heckler Member, CS Leader Posts: 80 Expert
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    edited December 2021
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    Interesting and great input, @Sally Donaldson, thank you.

    Similarly, I've led teams and built CSPs out of CRMs - including a HubSpot competitor, Pipedrive.

    It wasn't perfect, and we pushed the limits of the product, but it helped to be in control as well as have all of the data in one tool.


    Thanks again,

    Jeff


    Jeff Heckler
    Director of Customer Success Solutions
    MarketSource, Inc.
    Top 25 CS Influencer, 2021

  • Billy Davidson
    Billy Davidson Member Posts: 2 Navigator
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    edited December 2021
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    That's what we've run into the most, in regards to the customization aspect. We receive a lot of push-back from our Salesforce admins, due to how time consuming some of the requested dashboards are to build out. It can be frustrating at times, but we make it work.
  • Laura Lakhwara
    Laura Lakhwara Member Posts: 45 Expert
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    edited December 2021
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    @Rita Rammohan @Nick Howarth @Sally Donaldson: I used Hubspot as an interim CS solution - we didn't have resources or budget for a CSP. We maximized the following:
    • Sequences and Workflows
    • Snippets
    • Surveying
    • CSM activity tracking and Dashboards
    • Postings customer activity (e.g. NPS) to Slack channels and email
    • Customer Content Management
    • Customer Portal/Knowledge Base
    • Support Chat Bots
    We supplemented this tool with Asana to track customer onboarding, project management, etc. We maxed the product, but there are some features that if we had more integrations would have suited the size of our business.
  • Jeff Heckler
    Jeff Heckler Member, CS Leader Posts: 80 Expert
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    edited December 2021
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    Great input and list, @Laura Lakhwara, thank you.

    Like you, and many others, twice I've built CSPs using CRMs due to the lack of executive support/vision and budget.

    The quick wins for implementing were:

    - playbooks (Zapier was great here)
    - workflows (same, Zapier)
    - activity tracking --> dashboards in BI tools
    - surveys
    - segmentation
    - customer comms
    - CS marketing (expansion plays)

  • Alex Farmer
    Alex Farmer Member Posts: 62 Expert
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    edited December 2021
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    Great question Jeff.  I've built and deployed CS in Salesforce in my last few companies.  Those companies only ever had <400 customers and for that higher-touch model it worked well enough.  While CS platforms have more functionality, I've found that the sequestration of customer data out of the CRM isn't worth the benefit of that extra capability, especially with salesforce ISVs like Precursive for onboarding and Altify for stakeholder maps.  Happy to share more!
  • Anna Alley
    Anna Alley Member Posts: 70 Expert
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    edited December 2021
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    We do use primarily SFDC and Power BI at my company and are actually working to build out more robust proactive alerting, etc. for our CSMs in Q1. Agreed that it does require dedicated efforts/resources to build custom modules, dashboards, etc. but I feel most CS platforms are likely that way. For us, using Salesforce was largely driven by the fact that we use it for numerous other things in our business so it's just made sense to try to stay consistent and keep our data in there as well. We already use custom objects to log our customer interactions, use outlook/SFDC plug in to track more reactive interactions, meetings, etc. I'm hoping the work we do this quarter can get us to an even better place!
  • Jeff Heckler
    Jeff Heckler Member, CS Leader Posts: 80 Expert
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    edited December 2021
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    Great stuff, @Alex Farmer, thank you.

    For juxtaposition, and just so the CS community doesn't think they can't live w/o a CSP at over 400 customers...

    I twice lead teams where we built CSPs from CRMs (SFDC and Pipedrive) for 100k unique accounts with 750k - 1M subscribers.


    ------------------------------
    Jeff Heckler
    Director of Customer Success Solutions
    MarketSource, Inc.
    Top 25 CS Influencer, 2021
    One of Watch in Saas, 2022
    ------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 12-23-2021 13:48
    From: Alex Farmer
    Subject: Salesforce as a Customer Success Platform

    Great question Jeff.  I've built and deployed CS in Salesforce in my last few companies.  Those companies only ever had <400 customers and for that higher-touch model it worked well enough.  While CS platforms have more functionality, I've found that the sequestration of customer data out of the CRM isn't worth the benefit of that extra capability, especially with salesforce ISVs like Precursive for onboarding and Altify for stakeholder maps.  Happy to share more!

    Why don't we see more about Salesforce as a CSP from:

    1. SFDC, themselves

    or

    2. the CS market and community?

    I'd love to hear your experiences, takes, and input.

    Disclaimer: I don't have a horse in this race, I am simply interested in the consensus.

    Thanks,

    Jeff

    Jeff Heckler
    Director of Customer Success Solutions
    Maketsource, Inc.

  • Jeff Heckler
    Jeff Heckler Member, CS Leader Posts: 80 Expert
    Photogenic First Anniversary First Comment Office Hours Host 2022
    edited December 2021
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    Thank you, @Anna Alley, I completely understand - and agree.

    Everything is going to necessitate resources, it's just a matter of how much and at what time/expense/change management cost.

    With the internal IP, platform, and data in place - the logic most often dictates to use what's on hand.

    Especially with a well-rooted BI environment.  

    ------------------------------
    Jeff Heckler
    Director of Customer Success Solutions
    MarketSource, Inc.
    Top 25 CS Influencer, 2021
    One of Watch in Saas, 2022
    ------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 12-23-2021 14:02
    From: Anna Alley
    Subject: Salesforce as a Customer Success Platform

    We do use primarily SFDC and Power BI at my company and are actually working to build out more robust proactive alerting, etc. for our CSMs in Q1. Agreed that it does require dedicated efforts/resources to build custom modules, dashboards, etc. but I feel most CS platforms are likely that way. For us, using Salesforce was largely driven by the fact that we use it for numerous other things in our business so it's just made sense to try to stay consistent and keep our data in there as well. We already use custom objects to log our customer interactions, use outlook/SFDC plug in to track more reactive interactions, meetings, etc. I'm hoping the work we do this quarter can get us to an even better place!

    Why don't we see more about Salesforce as a CSP from:

    1. SFDC, themselves

    or

    2. the CS market and community?

    I'd love to hear your experiences, takes, and input.

    Disclaimer: I don't have a horse in this race, I am simply interested in the consensus.

    Thanks,

    Jeff

    Jeff Heckler
    Director of Customer Success Solutions
    Maketsource, Inc.

  • Anthony Gaspardi
    Anthony Gaspardi Member Posts: 5 Navigator
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    Anyone here currently using just SFDC as their primary CS Tool? While I have built renewal processes in SF, managing the entire lifecycle of the customer seems a bit more customized. I would love to speak with someone willing to share their success/learnings.


    Thanks

  • Anthony Gaspardi
    Anthony Gaspardi Member Posts: 5 Navigator
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    Hey @chrisdishman,

    Thanks for the insight. I’d agree, salesforce doesn’t have the level of functionality for a mature CS practice. 

    Mind if I ask if your company was low touch/high volume or vice versa? 

    It would be great to connect if you’re willing. We are a bit lower in our maturity of our CS practice. Jumping into a CSP seems like it could be more than we are ready for yet. It would be nice to put some fundementals in place and max out SF to help build a case for implementing a tool like Gainsight, and also prepare us for that step. 
  • chrisdishman
    chrisdishman Member Posts: 9 Navigator
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    @Anthony Gaspardi, we had a mix of low touch/long tail as well as a more high touch enterprise engagement model. Totally understand your thoughts on getting into a CSP with a less mature CS Practice, but know there are some solid options that can help you work into that maturity.

    I will DM you and we can find a time to sync up and discuss.

    Chris

  • NaomiAiken
    NaomiAiken Member Posts: 8 Navigator
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    This blog article is very helpful on this topic! https://churnzero.com/blog/serious-about-customer-success-your-crm-is-not-enough/

    Some key takeaways:

    • The most helpful tools often have one thing in common: they are purpose built. CRMs and Customer Success Platforms are no exception. While using a CRM for your CS program is possible, it will deliver lackluster results. This comes down to the different approach and scope of each platform. 
    • The nature of workflows used by Customer Success teams prove challenging for CRMs. Since CRMs focus on transactional relationship data, they struggle to glean insights from product usage information and other data. This provides a challenge when working to automate processes like onboarding and renewal workflows. 
    • A significant difference between CRMs and CS Platforms is how data is served. While CRMs function as a central repository for your data, they don’t necessarily present this information at the moments it matters most. Drawing from a wealth of customer data, CSPs identify customer trends that matter. This allows your CS team to be proactive, not reactive, in their approach to customer management.  
  • tejash_24
    tejash_24 Member Posts: 23 Navigator
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    It's an interesting point you've raised about Salesforce as a Customer Success Platform (CSP) and its visibility in both self-promotion and within the larger customer success market and community.

    1.SFDC's Self-Promotion: Salesforce, being a major player in the CRM and customer engagement space, often emphasizes its capabilities in various domains. However, the reason you might not see Salesforce marketing itself as a CSP as prominently could be due to its broad positioning. They tend to focus on CRM, sales, and marketing automation, which are core areas for many businesses. While Customer Success is indeed a critical aspect, it might not be the primary message they want to convey.

    2. Visibility in the CS Market and Community: Within the customer success community, Salesforce is recognized and utilized for its customer relationship management capabilities. Still, the term "CSP" might not be the central point of discussion because Customer Success as a function extends beyond a specific software platform. It involves a combination of people, processes, and technology. Salesforce is one tool in the toolkit, and discussions often revolve around best practices, strategies, and methodologies that can be applied across various platforms.

    In terms of visibility, it's possible that discussions around CSPs might not highlight Salesforce exclusively because many customer success professionals use a mix of tools tailored to their specific needs. Salesforce is undoubtedly a significant player in this ecosystem, but the nature of the field encourages a broader approach to tools and strategies.

    However, it's worth noting that Salesforce does offer specific solutions and features aimed at supporting Customer Success efforts, and there are resources available to help businesses make the most of these capabilities. It might be a matter of digging a bit deeper into Salesforce's offerings and the broader customer success conversation to uncover the full extent of its potential as a CSP.

    Your curiosity about this topic is valid, and it's always beneficial to explore how different platforms can be leveraged for Customer Success. It might be interesting to see more detailed case studies or success stories within the Salesforce ecosystem to shed more light on its role as a CSP.