Creating an Internal Salesforce Support Programme

One of the most rewarding things I’ve done at my current job is creating our internal Salesforce Support Programme. We have around 250 users and a 5 person Salesforce team. We needed a way to ensure that people got answers to their questions, while our team can still work on lots of new development simultaneously.

Our company was already using Freshservice for other internal helpdesks, so while I personally would have liked to use Salesforce Cases, we used Freshservice, which has turned out to be a really easy programme to learn. People email our support email, which creates tickets in Freshservice. We can also transfer tickets to other internal helpdesks.

Here’s some best practices I’ve learned in no particular order:

  1. Regardless of whether you communicate them to your internal customers, create some SLAs as bench marks. Ours are that we aim to respond to someone within 1 hour of receiving their ticket, and we aim to resolve all tickets within 3 working days. The 1 hour response time is only during core business hours. Even though we don’t publicly share these SLAs, it’s good for our team to have standards that we strive to hit. This has made our customers trust us since we are accountable and never leave them hanging.
  2. Have one person whose job it is to allocate  and manage all tickets. I have this role on our team. I tend to do a lot of the tickets myself, but I allocate tickets to other team members when it’s busy or if a ticket is related to a particular project they’ve worked on. Even though I might assign a ticket to a colleague, I keep track of all the tickets and follow up with the assignee if they haven’t responded or if I think they’ve provided enough information and can close out the ticket.
  3. Use a friendly and approachable tone in all email communication. You want people to feel comfortable, not stupid, asking questions. The best way to do this is to validate their question. Though it seems obvious, adding in “good question!” to a response can really make people feel heard.
  4. Don’t underestimate phone or in person communication. While sometimes it might feel easier to just have a long back and forth communication with someone, it’s often more efficient to just pick up the phone for clarification. I often call people if I don’t understand their question or go over to their desk to have them show me an error or process they’re trying to complete. Support is all about matching the interaction to the person’s style. If your customer tends to be in lots of meetings and doesn’t have time to read multiple emails, schedule in 15 minutes to go over their question. When I first started in my job, I sat in a different building than all of our users. Once I moved to the building where all the users sat, getting to know them in person helped me to gain their trust and respect.
  5. Treat each ticket as a learning experience.  Though it might be quicker to just create a report for someone, they will have a better Salesforce experience if they feel empowered to create a report themselves. Internal support should be an ongoing series of teachable moments. Getting people to a higher level in Salesforce increases their satisfaction and confidence in the product. They also might not need help the next time since they’re more self-sufficient.
  6. Identify “super users” and create a Salesforce Champions Programme. Through the types of questions they ask and their engagement level with Salesforce, select special colleagues to join a Salesforce Champions Programme. I’ll write a separate post on this, but in relation to support, our champions are the first contact for other people in their departments. They support other Salesforce users on the front lines.
  7. Be empathetic. Even if you can’t totally imagine someone’s frustration, you’ve been in challenging job situations too, and should be able to relate to having one of those days where everything seems broken. So be kind and try to see the question or issue from the requester’s point of view.
  8. Say sorry. As admins, we’ve all had a time when we made changes without properly communicating to all users or overlooked a user experience issue. Admit that you made a mistake and then fix it.
  9. Categorise your tickets. Our categories are Login Issue, Integration/Sync Issue, Permissions, Telephone, Reporting, Dataloader, Feature Request – Quick Fix, Feature Request – Moved to JIRA, User Education, and Other. If someone’s request should actually be a larger project, we have them submit a development work request in JIRA. We still ultimately help them, just on a different timescale.
  10. Ask for help. No one can know the answers to everything. Remember, support is a learning experience for everyone. Get help from your teammates, other teams, the Success Community, or Salesforce Support. You can’t solve it all on your own.
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Apex for Admins Training

I work with a lot of developers at my current job and I wanted to understand what custom solutions are possible within Salesforce.

I found this super helpful video that’s from Dreamforce 2013. This session was 2.5 hours and was led by Leah McGowen-Hare, who’s a Master Technical Trainer at Salesforce. She’s really engaging and you don’t need to have any coding skills to generally understand everything she covers.

Even though the trigger they write can now be achieved with the process builder, it’s a great overview of:

  • What is Apex?
  • Where can Apex be developed?
  • Elipse
  • Force.com IDE
  • Classes and methods
  • sObjects
  • SOQL
  • Invoking Apex
  • Triggers

If you have a couple of hours to spare, it’s a good high-level overview of lots of concepts. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, try installing Eclipse and the force.com IDE so that you can practise in your own developer org. Since the students at Dreamforce had everything installed for them, you can get this added learning experience. I didn’t succeed with all the exercises the class was doing, but it was still worthwhile to try.

Check out the course here:

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My Certification Journey

While I was studying for a few certifications, I read a lot of Salesforce blogs, and I found them super helpful. I thought I’d chip in and give some thoughts on certification and the studying that goes with it.

Great bloggers:

Administrator

My boss said we had some extra money in our budget for training and asked if I wanted to take an exam. I said yes and studied for the Admin exam. I had been working with Salesforce for several months at the time. I did the premier training course called Administration Essentials for New Admins. I did all the exercises in a test org. I got to know Rob the admin real well. I think this was one was the hardest for me since I had the least experience at the time, but I passed and that was super cool. I felt really accomplished even though my family had no idea what certifications were.

Force.com Developer

I found the developer exam more logic-based than the Admin one, which seemed more about memorising concepts. For this one, I was lucky enough to take the instructor led course with the amazing Simon Connock in Staines, UK. Simon was a great instructor and we covered pretty much everything on the exam in the 5 day course. I took the exam a couple of weeks after the course, so I wouldn’t forget the material.

Advanced Administrator, Plaform App Builder, Service Cloud Consultant, Sales Cloud Consultant

I got really motivated to take a lot of exams so I studied and took these ones over the course of a couple of months. I followed the same steps to study for all of them:

  • Print out the study guide and read it very closely.
  • Do all of the online courses recommended in the study guide. I was a little OCD with this and took screenshots of all of the slides that I thought were worth reading again. Then I printed out all of my screenshots. You definitely do not have to print everything. I’m really anti-printing in general, but I found annotating with pen and highlighter helpful.
  • Read all of the recommended resources in the study guide. The implementation guides go into a huge amount of detail so I skimmed a lot of these to get the big picture. If you ever implement things later, you can read the guides again in much more detail.
  • If there’s concepts that you don’t feel you really understand, do a google search or find more resources in the help and training on Salesforce.
  • For the Sales Cloud Consultant exam, I found Shell Black’s videos super helpful. He explains sales concepts in a very straightforward way. He does all of his visuals on a whiteboard, which is I found refreshing.
  • Use flashcards on Quizlet to learn key concepts, but take all of these with a grain of salt since they’re not official Salesforce material and are often inaccurate.
  • Study with a friend or colleague, it makes studying more engaging. My friend, Emma, and I studied together while eating ice cream. If you don’t have anyone to study with, find your local Salesforce user group and find a study buddy.
  • Take the exams on a Monday morning (if you work Monday-Friday) so that you can have had the weekend to study and sleep.
  • Imagine yourself passing.
  • Write a nice comment in the feedback before you get before you get your results. I read this on someone’s blog and did it every time after.
  • I passed all of my exams on the first try, which was a relief.
  • David Liu recommended buying yourself a gift as a reward for passing, so I got myself a Danish wooden monkey.

Is it worth it to get certified? 

For me, it’s helped me find jobs, but it’s mostly been good for my confidence. I got my degree in creative writing and didn’t start working in tech until I was a few years out of university. Getting certifications made me feel more “qualified,” even though I probably already was.

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