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TMC Labs
June 2002

Salesforce.com: Just Add Personnel

By Michael Gallo, Technology Editor, TMC' Labs

Salesforce.com, Inc.
American Office
The Landmark @ One Market, Ste. 300
San Francisco, CA 94105
Ph: 415-901-7000
Fx: 415-901-7040

It's hard to know when annual CRM system upgrades wear out their worth due to perpetual costs associated with consultation, implementation, hardware and software upgrades, additional storage space, redundancy, fault tolerance provisioning (the list goes on), and when it becomes time to cut company losses and dump legacy systems in favor of a new solution. Conversely, if you're a smaller company about to step into the CRM game, even basic functionality can induce sticker-shock while lagging with long ramp-up periods that will probably require dedicated resources to manage operations and maintenance.

Salesforce.com provides an alternative approach to in-house CRM solutions by offering a hosted CRM service. They outsource the hardware and software and provide companies with CRM services via a browser, to target sales, marketing and customer service offerings for a per-person monthly charge.

To provide our readers with a 'Quick Tour' of Salesforce's Enterprise Editon product, I was issued a Salesforce.com account to a faux company called GenWatt Corp. and allowed access to its services as an employee. I was also granted permissions to the self-service area of GenWatt's Web site, allowing me to query the knowledge base posing as a customer of GenWatt. Both of these are considered accounts; as such, they were both linked to my e-mail address so I could receive any automatic communication triggered by the system.

Using Internet Explorer 6, I logged onto my GenWatt account through the Salesforce.com home page. I was impressed when facing the GUI for the first time (see Figure 1). The GUI was broken down into separate tabs which delineated the critical areas staff members need to keep organized: Campaigns, Leads, Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities, Forecasts, Cases, Solutions and Reports. What's interesting about Salesforce.com is that in addition to providing a 360-degree view for all marketing, sales and customer support communication with a particular individual, an account or company, it also provisions for different languages. This renders account updates in English readable by Japanese counterparts, for example, without laboring over the formality of translation.

Salesforce.com associates key contacts with their respective account. Entering a contact without linking it to an account is considered private by the system and is therefore not viewable by other associates. For each contact, I was able to store staple information about the individual such as name, e-mail address and phone number, account, lead source, etc., in addition to creating custom fields. The inclusion of a Lookup button next to appropriate fields for reference of existing information was provisioned for, which helped curtail the pain usually experienced when entering new contact information. Additionally, Intellisync, a small download (obtainable from your account home page) synchronizes data input from your Salesforce.com interface with your choice of Outlook or Palm Pilot Tasks, Contacts or Appointments on your desktop.

Marketing Automation Campaigns And Leads
The Campaign tab allows companies to store important information about marketing campaigns such as costs, expected and actual response rates, and other custom data to plan the campaign and analyze its performance. Each Campaign page tracks the sales opportunities and revenue generated from the particular marketing campaign to help companies measure ROI through metrics such as hit rates and actual revenue. Prevalent throughout the interface, Enterprise Edition seems to be very tightly knit, meaning that all data are seemingly linked in one way or another. Considering leads to be 'people who have expressed an interest in the company's products or services,' Salesforce.com allows lead generation through one or multiple conduits such as a corporate Web site, an industry trade show or a response to a marketing campaign. For each lead, users can store important information such as name, phone number, lead source, product interest and other custom data. Leads can be converted into accounts and contacts and can be segmented by creating lead queues to separate inquiries from prospects, for example. Skills-based routing can then be applied to automatically route inquiries to specific company representatives directly, or to a queue of specialists.

Sales Force Automation Opportunities And Forecasts
Opportunities are categorized as sales deals. The idea is to differentiate between multiple opportunities within a certain account, for example. I was able to log different sales opportunities with United Oil and Gas, Singapore; beginning the process for selling two generators to different departments within the company, both with separate leads and contacts, but within the same account. I was able to log important information such as deal amount, expected close date, likelihood of winning the deal and other custom data to track the sales pipeline. Each Opportunity page tracks all meetings, tasks and customer communication related to the particular deal. The Enterprise Edition also allows users to set up Product Revenue Tracking and Annuity Revenue Tracking. All types of opportunities can be tallied to create forecasts. Quarterly projections can be created based on timeline, territory or individual.

Customer Support Cases And Solutions
Salesforce.com supports service organizations through a number of tools engineered to standardize business processes and foster efficiency. Cases and Solutions are tools designed for customer service representatives to accommodate product or service users after the sale. Current users of a product or products are assigned an individual case in which all critical information is stored about the customer: case owner, inquiry time and date, reason/type of inquiry, etc. Using the Cases and Solutions toolbox, queues for skills-based routing can be defined; I was also easily able to set up, route, reroute and escalate inbound customer inquiry rules.

To answer customer inquires uniformly and efficiently, Salesforce.com has developed Solutions: approved responses to company/product-related questions stored in a knowledge base. Salesforce.com includes an embedded, customizable review process provisioned to route employee answers to the appropriate approval personnel. Setting up a knowledge base is easier than you might think, at least in theory. Although time constraints prevented me from testing setup, Salesforce.com says the HTML for the log-in page is automatically generated by Salesforce.com, and all the company has to do is insert this code into the Customer Support page on its Web site. All self-service requests are then directed to Salesforce.com servers.

From my experience, Salesforce.com provides a compelling, customizable and attractive CRM solution. At $65 per Professional Edition user and $125 per Enterprise User, this ASP goes beyond being merely a salesforce tool by providing all the aforementioned functionality in addition to administration and report capabilities. Salesforce.com also offers multiple levels of training and support for its Offline, Enterprise, Professional and E-Business editions.

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