Is your app provider ready for your call?

In The Ten Commandments of CRM according to Sales I highlighted the importance of giving your sales team ‘small gifts’. You can find many such gifts (known as Packages) on Salesforce’s AppExchange – the world’s leading business App marketplace. If you want to help your sales team with route planning or managing their expenses, there are plenty of Apps to choose from. But how do you choose which App is the right one for your business?

When you invest time and money in an App, you want to ensure you benefit from your investment. Some Apps are paid and some are free. But even the free ones require some effort on your part to install and test them. You also need to know that you’re not going to mess anything else up in your Salesforce org when you install a new one. In addition, you want to know that you’ll not be left hanging on the end of a telephone line when you have questions about the App. It doesn’t matter if a Salesforce Administrator finds the best App ever for coaching sales people through a new sales methodology if that admin doesn’t receive the help required. The best Apps provide the best support to match.

This article is intended for Administrators who download Apps from the Salesforce AppExchange, however it’s best practice for anyone downloading an App from anywhere to anywhere. I use it for Apps from the AppStore You might use it for androidcentral.

BEFORE YOU CLICK THE ‘DOWNLOAD’ BUTTON

Because it is so easy to install an App or package in your Salesforce sandbox, a lot of administrators are eager to click on that tempting ‘Download’ button right away. However I’d urge you to do a little research first. I promise it’ll save you time later.

Complete these seven tasks before you reach for the ‘Download’ button:

Identify your requirements clearly

Gather feedback from a cross-section of your user community so you’re clear about the business requirements you’re trying to satisfy. Document and weight your criteria with a wider audience to validate them.

Create a shortlist of Apps for review

Based on your weighted criteria, identify a shortlist of 5-7 Apps that you’d like to try. Review any screenshots or demos available for each App. Refine your list based on the quality of the demos you watch.
You should also check the following:

  • Is your Edition of Salesforce supported?
  • When was the App last updated?
  • Whether you can request a live demo?
  • How much the App costs

Confirm the contact details for getting support

For each App in your priority list, check how you can contact them for support:

  • Do they have a website?
  • Do they provide an email or chat support?
  • Do they have an active Twitter account?
  • Is their phone number clearly listed?

Validate the process for getting support

It’s worth checking how quickly you get a response via your preferred support channel. You might ask a few questions to clarify the support process, such as:

  • Can you help me with the installation of the Trial version?
  • What’s your typical response time for Trials and production environments?
  • What are your support hours? Just standard business hours or do you offer 24-hour support?
  • Will I have a dedicated Account Manager to support me?

Do your due diligence on the provider of the App

I’d also recommend researching the company that’s developed the App. How long have they been in operation for? Are they just a one-man band? Do some due diligence on Twitter and LinkedIn to see who’s talking about them and what they’re saying. That’s one of the best ways to get a true impression of the quality of their support.

Read customer reviews about the App

It’s always good to see at least ten positive reviews for Apps that have been around a while. But do take into account how long people have actually been using the App for.
Positive reviews are helpful, but negative reviews help you more. They can quickly highlight the limitations of the App to you. If the App fails in a particular area that’s especially important to you, then you know you’ll need to test it thoroughly against your own use cases.

Above all, pay attention to any comments about the quality of support other customers have experienced. Each App on the AppExchange includes a ‘most helpful positive review’ to make it easy for you to understand its key benefits:

Confirm what resources are available to support you

Some Apps are really easy to use. Just install and off you go. Others require some configuration to get the most out of them.

If an App provider provides poor, out-of-date documentation, this rings alarm bells for me. If support documentation is low quality or altogether lacking, it doesn’t really fill you with confidence about the quality of customer service.

Find out whether the App provider provides clear, accurate support materials, for example:

  • Installation instructions
  • Online “How to” guides, ideally with video clips
  • Online, contextual Help available within the App itself
  • User guides

For more complex Apps, you should also find out what the training and support options are. For example, can you speak to a real person to get your questions answered? Are their regular webinars on how to use the App? Is virtual training available?

Even for really simple Apps, you usually discover lesser-known tips and tricks when you speak to someone.

PRIOR TO INSTALLATION

Once you’ve done some thorough research, you’re almost ready to install your App. But not so fast! You still have two important decisions to make:

Decide where to install the App(s)

Please don’t install immediately into a Production environment.
It’s always best to install into a Developer Edition org or a Sandbox Edition org first (unless you’re just installing a package of reports and dashboards).
You can confirm how much configuration is really required and how user-friendly the app is. It’s good to test performance in a safe environment that won’t impact your users.

Decide whether to trial the App(s) with pilot users

Consider who you’d like to test the App(s) for you. Running a pilot helps you spot any teething issues fast.
Give your pilot users access to the Sandbox org, run demos for them and train them how to use the App(s). Explain how you’d like them to share their feedback with you. You’ll be able to review their findings against the weighted criteria you identified earlier in the process.

AFTER YOU’VE DOWNLOADED THE TRIAL APP

Once you’ve downloaded the Trial App into your Developer Edition org or a Sandbox Edition org, it’s time to validate the quality of the App’s features and the support available for the App:

Call up customer service

Test out your App provider’s support process by calling them with some real questions. Are they as responsive as you need them to be? Are they knowledgeable? Are they polite and friendly?

Train your pilot users

It’s a waste of time giving users access to an App and not training them properly. Make sure that you provide demos or online webinars to teach your pilot users how to use it properly, and express the benefits of using it.

Consolidate your pilot users’ feedback

Determine how long the pilot should last for and how you will gather feedback from your pilot users, so you can rate each App objectively.
Identify the App that’s top of the leader board in meeting your business needs. Start making plans to install the winning App into your Production environment org.

Confirm and communicate the winning App

Communicate the results of the pilot and your plans for introducing the App into your Salesforce Production org. Of course you’ll need to align the implementation with your usual governance procedures and company policy for Salesforce.

THE WINNING APP MUST ANSWER YOUR CALL

In summary, when you select an App from the AppExchange, my advice is to test the support process for the App as thoroughly as you test its features.
Apps are a great way to make Salesforce work better for sales teams and Sales Managers. User adoption of CRM visibly increases when you enhance your CRM with timesaving Apps that add value.
Once you’ve been working with your new App for a while, why not help out the App provider by writing a user review? This helps other customers in the Salesforce ecosystem learn about the best Apps available. It’s also a nice way to say thank you to the App provider who’s always ready to take your call.

Vanessa Hunt

Vanessa Hunt

Vanessa is Director at Vanessa Hunt Consulting. Her forte is helping businesses and non-profit organisations improve their sales and marketing. Educated at Exeter University and graduating in French and German, Vanessa has been a training consultant to many of the world's leading tech businesses, focusing more recently on helping organisations realise the value of their CRM platforms.