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Four Customer Success Needs That Salesforce Can’t Help With (But A Customer Success Platform Can)

CRMs aren’t built for CS, so why are we surprised when they don’t meet every need?
Alex Wentzell
October 11, 2022

CRMs aren’t built for CS, so why are we surprised when they don’t meet every need? 

Salesforce is a great platform for, well, sales, but falls a bit flat when it comes to customer success. And it’s not that Salesforce isn’t powerful—we kindly suggest anyone making that argument needs to come out from under the rock where they currently live—just that the platform is purpose-built for new revenue generation while customer success is about protecting and expanding current revenue. 

The subtle, yet critical differences begin to show quite plainly when you dive into the platform. In particular, four things that customer success professionals need to succeed that Salesforce simply can’t help with. 

1. No data-ingestion tool for post-purchase analytics

Salesforce is a powerful tool for pre-contract data. You can store call notes, email marketing triggers, and more. But it’s not the best source of truth for post-contract information and analytics. 

Why, you may ask? It boils down to data accuracy and reporting. 

While you can report product usage in Salesforce, there’s no simple or automated data-ingestion tool. That either means expensive customization to link data sources together or inputting data manually. Both carry the risk of lower accuracy as data links could break and manual inputs leave room for human error. Reporting will also have inherent issues—both the possibility of inaccuracies flowing through and reporting modules not connecting to every data input (again, no data-ingestion tool).

A customer success platform that integrates with product technologies (like Zendesk, Mixpanel, Redshift, and Segment) will give you all the details you need automatically. 

2. No DIY configurations and higher technical debt

Because Salesforce isn’t built for post-contract information, every workflow you build will be manual by default. Even with Salesforce’s Einstein artificial intelligence tool, you’ll have to work on the fly when coming at it from a customer success use case. 

But let’s say you’re willing to put in the manual effort—build it once and use it forever, right? 

Well. Here’s the thing. 

Customer success is a rapidly evolving practice. That means your use cases today will likely not be your use cases in a few months or years. In fact, they shouldn’t be as you learn more about your customers, grow, and hopefully automate many tasks as you scale. But your custom Salesforce implementation will be wholly out of date long before this (cue more manual effort that no one has time for, like the fact that simply changing the title of a data field requires custom code). Compare that to a CSP with configurable dashboards so you can make changes on the fly, as needed, to grow your CS practice. 

3. No quick user onboarding without significant cost

Getting used to a sales tool customized for a CS use case will take up extra time. That extra time could mean new CSM hires take a couple of months to get fully onboarded rather than a couple of weeks. All of a sudden, that’s a huge cost in terms of salaries and the risk of customers not getting the care they need. 

The alternative is a well-maintained custom implementation of Salesforce that is constantly evolving for CS team needs. However, this gets cost-prohibitive very quickly when you factor in the costs of consultants, downtime, and CSMs re-learning any new changes. Within a CSP you can leverage playbooks and a customer journey builder to easily onboard new CSMs. 

4. No opportunity to automate repetitive customer actions

You can hack together Salesforce’s pre-purchase tools to try to use them for CS—such as turning pre-purchase email marketing into post-purchase customer milestone emails— but you’re fighting against the marketing team, spending a bunch of money, and not even getting what you want.

Further, there’s no opportunity to automate repetitive customer actions with playbooks, upsell motions, or at-risk customer motions. These are relatively complex processes that need human creativity to work, but technology to scale. And you don’t get that scale opportunity from Salesforce.

When you don’t have automations in place, the whole CS team stays in reactive firefighting mode. Everything they do is just to keep the proverbial lights on and customer growth requires a nearly linear CS team growth, which simply won’t work long-term. 

Don’t ditch Salesforce, enhance it

Salesforce (or other CRMs) are crucial tools for company growth. We love them, in fact, because they are high-quality sources of data. It’s just that for CS, we need more—we have to own the relationship and all the stickiness that goes with it. So it’s not about ditching Salesforce (we would never!), it’s about enhancing it with a customer success platform (or “CSP”) to provide what CS needs to get their job done.

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