What is most valuable?
The built-in, ready-to-go package of case management, email management and social media management with a knowledge base helps to speed up the implementation time. I can have a new service center operational within a few days if needed, although more complex implementations still may take much longer.
The most important feature though is the platform’s upgrade approach. There is never a need to install an upgrade. The upgrades are applied automatically three times a year, and every customer is always operating on the latest version of the software.
How has it helped my organization?
As a consultant, I have seen the implementation of Service Cloud reduce contact center handle times by minutes per call, which can translate to millions of dollars in savings for large operations. The cloud infrastructure helps to speed up implementation time and accelerates how quickly you can release new features to users.
For most contact centers, it will improve overall uptime performance, but it is important to ensure a good quality internet connection for all users. There is no way to access Service Cloud if you lose your public internet access.
What needs improvement?
My clients have raised concerns with the knowledge search algorithm. Sometimes it seems the most relevant knowledge articles are not the ones that are returned in the search results. Salesforce has made substantial strides to improve on this over the past few releases.
Salesforce is rolling out a new user interface called “Lightning Experience” which is not yet available for Service Cloud. I would like to see it fully rolled out to Service Cloud, which they do plan to do.
For how long have I used the solution?
Seven years as an implementation consultant.
What was my experience with deployment of the solution?
There are elements of Service Cloud which cannot be smoothly migrated from sandbox environments to production, leading to manual steps in a deployment.
For example, translations have to be manually applied in production, and on-demand email-to-case must be set up directly in production.
How are customer service and technical support?
I have had mixed experiences with standard technical support over the years, so I would highly recommend considering buying premium technical support to enable skipping of the first line of tech support.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
I have worked almost exclusively with Salesforce for the past several years because Service Cloud is the solution all of my clients have been buying. I previously worked with RightNow, which is now Oracle Service Cloud. But I found the upgrade process with RightNow to be problematic, leading to customers getting stuck on out-of-date versions of the product.
How was the initial setup?
Companies already using Salesforce for other CRM functions will find Service Cloud implementation to be straightforward. If a company is migrating to Service Cloud from an on-premise solution like Siebel or SAPCRM, the biggest change is getting adjusted to life with a cloud platform.
The support model needed is different with Service Cloud. There are no servers to maintain or patch, but there must be a plan in place to evaluate and prepare for the three yearly upgrades and to prepare users to take advantage of new features as they are released.
What about the implementation team?
I am an implementation consultant, so my advice would be to consider using an implementation consultant for your first release, but have a plan in place to transition in house over time. Make sure your implementation consultant partner is certified and follow up on their references. Use them to educate your in-house team during that first implementation.
Anyone can learn Salesforce if they have prior CRM experience, so make sure your in house team gets involved in the implementation and takes ownership. At some point the consultant will leave, and then you must be able to take over.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
The best time to negotiate the price is at the very beginning. Since this is a subscription model, you will be paying for it indefinitely, and it’s easier to negotiate the rate down from the beginning.
Also, have an exit strategy in place to transition off of the platform should you not be happy with license negotiation during future renewals. It will give you more leverage during those negotiations.
What other advice do I have?
Anyone can sign up for a free “developer org” to play around with the product. Get hands on with it and get comfortable before making a purchasing decision. The Salesforce Trailhead program provides free online tutorials to learn about all the features of Service Cloud.
Also, consider attending the annual Dreamforce conference to learn how other companies are using Service Cloud and to get advice from them.