Category Archives: Business

Faces of Customer Satisfaction

Collecting, Analyzing, and Acting on Customer Satisfaction Data with Salesforce Visual Flow

I recently worked with a team that had to share news with their customers and partners that could negatively impact the customer’s satisfaction with the company’s products and, ultimately, their relationship.

While the team spent a lot of time preparing the talking points and prepping their sales team on how to share the news, I realized that a key component was missing:

How would the customers feel or respond to this news?

I thought these were important reactions that we should try to collect and analyze, which would then give the team insight as to what to do next.


My requirements were as follows:

  1. Make the data collection process standardized. While we wanted to be able to gather actual comments from customers, I also knew we would need to provide the sales team with a simple scale to categorize the customer’s response to the news. This would give us a way to interpret whether the reactions were favorable or negative.
  2. Make the data collection process actionable. Whenever you collect data, you always want to keep in mind how you can make the data actionable. At the very least, this means the ability to use the data to create reports, charts, and dashboards for the leadership team to stay informed and make decisions. Taking it a step further, would there be “triggers” in this process that might call for some type of timely follow up?
  3. Make the data collection process simple. As much as possible, we wanted this to be part of the sales team’s regular workflow that would take just a minute or two of their time.
  4. Make the data collection process mobile. We realized that many of the discussions would be handled face-to-face, so the salesperson would need to be able to provide a quick update on their smartphone or tablet.

The first two requirements — standardized and actionable — were the most important. The last two requirements — simple and mobile — could be optional requirements under certain circumstances, but in this case, I knew we had the tools available to make these requirements possible.

First, I wanted to address the most important requirements. To make the data standardized, I wanted to provide the sales team with a simple scale to categorize the customer’s response to the news. It had to have just a few options that would be easy for the sales team to select from.

The simple scale we settled on was:

  • Positive
  • Neutral
  • Negative

To make the data actionable, I knew we would be able to take the responses from this very basic scale and develop a simple chart that would show the percentages responding to each option: positive, neutral, or negative. We would also want to be able to connect each response to an individual salesperson and to an individual contact at a customer, so that we could pull in other information for our dashboards — percent of customers contacted; percent of key customers contacted; number of customer contacts by salesperson; etc.

But beyond charts and dashboards, there were other actionable triggers we could consider.

If someone had a negative response to the news, we should flag them for follow-up by someone on the leadership team. To simplify the follow-up, we would assign it to the salesperson’s manager. They could then review the information and decide if they would follow up on their own, or send it on to another member of the leadership team.

If someone had a positive response to the news, we should flag them for follow-up for a customer testimonial. We could then assign this to a member of the marketing team.

Now, with these requirements and ideas in mind, I could turn to the tool that would make all of this possible: Visual Flow.

Developing the Solution

To make the process simple for the salesperson, I created a custom button on the Contact page in Salesforce, called “Relationship Update.” Clicking this button would start the Visual Flow, which would present the salesperson with the data collection process. Placing the button on the Contact record in Salesforce made it easy for a salesperson to access during their interaction with the customer.

And because it’s built in Salesforce, it automatically checks the box of making the process mobile.

I wanted to present a simple data collection form for the salesperson to fill out, collecting the following data:

  1. Date of Contact (defaulting to today’s date, but changeable if they need to add older information)
  2. Three radio buttons to classify the Relationship Status:
    • Positive
    • Neutral
    • Negative
  3. A large text box to collect any additional Comments

Now to the “fun stuff” of what the Visual Flow would automatically do in the background with that data:

  1. Update a Relationship Picklist field that I had created on the Account record, which would in turn update a Formula Text field on the Account record that would display a text version of a stoplight image:
    • a green Positive
    • a yellow Neutral
    • a red Negative
  2. Create an Activity History record with:
    • A standard Subject line (making reporting easier)
    • The selected Status in the Subject line
    • The Comments in the Description
    • The Date and User
    • Link to the Related Contact and Account records
  3. Post the Comments to the Account’s Chatter feed with a Topic of #RelationshipStatus so that users can subscribe to the Topic and receive updates as they happen.
  4. If a Status of Negative is selected, send an email to the user’s manager, including the Comments, so that the manager is aware and can follow-up or escalate as appropriate.
  5. If a Status of Positive is selected, present the user with a second screen, asking if this Contact might provide us with a good testimonial. If the user selects the Yes radio button, a Task is created for a member of the marketing team. If the user selects the No radio button, no Task is created.

Implementing the Solution

Thankfully, with the tools that Salesforce provides, implementing this solution was quick and relatively simple. I presented the idea to the sales leadership team and got their approval on Wednesday afternoon, I developed and tested the tools in Salesforce on Thursday, and we trained the sales team on how to use it on Friday morning.

And because simplicity was a key focus of the solution, it was easy for the sales team to understand the process and use it — we spent about 15 minutes providing them with a demonstration, and then allowing them to enter sample records into a Sandbox environment.

Results of the Solution

Overwhelmingly, this was a positive solution for the company. I say this not for my own benefit as the person who developed and implemented it, but because it would have been useless had not the sales team done such a great job of contacting their customers and using this process to provide valuable information to the company.

We quickly started to see the benefits of gathering this information:

  • Thanks to the reports and dashboards, we were able to monitor the positive/neutral/negative feedback scale, and realize that just over 90% of the customers contacted had a positive or neutral reaction to the news and feeling about the future of the company.
  • Thanks to the reports and dashboards, we were able to create a contest among the sales team regarding who could make the most customer contacts within given time periods. It’s amazing how an inexpensive gift card or coffee mug can bring out the competitiveness among a good sales team.
  • Thanks to the triggers, we were able to flag any negative responses for follow-up by the management team, helping to alleviate some of the fears that customers had and assuring them of the company’s plan to manage the situation. This also helped the leadership team understand the areas that most bothered customers or led to misinformation, so they could be sure to clarify those in press releases or FAQs.
  • Thanks to the triggers, we were able to flag any positive responses for follow-up by the marketing team, and received some very encouraging comments from customers who were committed to remaining customers of the company.
  • Thanks to the comments and hashtag being added to the Chatter feed, we were able to “at-mention” other users (@username) and bring them into conversations about feedback from specific customers. For example, one customer mentioned some negative information their employees had received from a third-party vendor. We were able to bring the company employee who managed that vendor relationship into the discussion on the Chatter feed, they were able to follow up with the vendor to provide them with correct information, and helped resolve an issue that we would otherwise not been aware of.
  • Thanks to all of the information coming in, we were able to work with the marketing team to create posters that were then posted around the company’s building — near employee entrances, in the elevators, etc. The poster included the customer sentiment chart (positive/neutral/negative), as well as some of the testimonials we were able to gather. This allowed employees who didn’t regularly interact with key customers to see the overwhelmingly positive response to the information, and helped boost morale across the company at a dark time.


Even when managing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, it can be easy to lose sight of capturing more than customer demographic or purchase data. But with the right mindset, priorities, and tools, you can also capture customer sentiment and feedback, which can add a new level of insight into your company’s performance and the strength of your customer relationship.

Career Transition

Why I left a new job after one week

Those who know me will know that I’ve been sharing recently about a new job that I accepted as the CRM Business Manager for the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan. In many ways, the job seemed like a great fit for me. I would once again be working for the University of Michigan, a university that I greatly admire, whose teams I cheer for, and who is a tremendous employer. I would be working on a team, supporting the platform, and spreading the use of it beyond the Alumni Association to other departments, schools, and campuses within the university.

Starting the job seemed positively surreal. After receiving the job offer, I was able to negotiate with the HR representative on a few key items, and she was patient in answering all of my benefit questions. The Friday before I started, they sent me a 2-page “onboarding plan” that included a list of key contacts, as well as a schedule of important meetings I would need to attend in my first six months. On the morning of my first day, I attended a well-prepared and well-executed orientation program that provided me with good information regarding the university as a whole, and also answered my specific questions. After lunch on my first day, I went to my office, where I was given the type of computer I had requested (Mac vs. PC), other relevant hardware (keyboard, mouse, large monitor), and even a powered desk that would allow me to stand or sit while working! I was impressed.

However, days 2 and 3 started to reveal some factors I hadn’t considered.

I had commuted to Ann Arbor from my home in Flint before this, but it had been under different circumstances. First, I was much younger, my wife was younger, and we didn’t yet have any children. Second, the other companies I worked for were all on the outer edges of Ann Arbor, near US‑23 and I‑94, and had their own free parking lots near the building. Now, for this new job, I was working in downtown Ann Arbor — referred to as “Central Campus” — where I would need to find parking in a parking garage, and either pay for it through a monthly payroll deduction by parking in a university parking garage, or pay cash for a public parking garage. There were a couple of days when I had to go to more than one parking garage to try and find a parking space. I never realized before this what a perk it is to have free and ample parking.

Traffic was also an issue. We’ve been fortunate here in early November to have some mild weather, but even something as simple as fog can drastically slow down the flow of traffic into the Ann Arbor area. On a good day, including driving, finding a place to park, and walking to my office, my total commute was at least an hour and a half. And this is before the weather turns and the snow begins to fall. I began to ask myself, “Do I really want to spend three hours a day commuting? More importantly, is this a good fit for my family right now?”

The answer to me was immediately clear — this was not a good fit for me and my family. It would definitely have been a good job under other circumstances, and the fault was not with the university, the alumni team, or anything else. It came down to a decision of what is best for my family.

Now that I had made the decision that this job wasn’t a good fit, the next question was what to do about it. I could “grin and bear it,” and continue in this job for some period of time while I looked for other employment. Although resigning meant foregoing a steady paycheck, staying in the job didn’t seem to be a good option for my family, and would only reduce the time and energy I could spend on looking for a job that would be a better fit.

But it also occurred to me that remaining in that job wouldn’t be fair to the university and to the leadership team at the Alumni Association. They had hired me with the expectation that they would be able to transfer certain responsibilities to me, and that I would take on certain roles within the team. It didn’t seem right to me to allow that to happen while I was looking for other work, only to suddenly resign within a month or two, and put them back at square one. It seemed more honorable to me to resign immediately, before any transition took place, so they could continue in their current setup, and begin to look for a new candidate to fill that position.

So that’s what I did — I met with my director on Friday and explained the situation to him. He agreed that the type of remote work and flexibility that I would need would not fit the university’s needs for that job. And so I submitted to him my letter of resignation, and left that job the same week I had started.

Was that easy to do? Definitely not.

Are there aspects of that decision that scare me still? Most definitely. I don’t have a “next job” lined up, nor do I have any idea what it will look like, when it will come, what it will pay, etc.

Do I have confidence that I made the right decision and pursued the right course of action? Yes, I do. I believe I acted in the best of interests of my family and with integrity toward my employer.

Above all, do I have confidence that God is in control and has good things planned for me and my family? Yes, definitely. God has demonstrated in the past His ability to provide for my family, both through my employment and through other means, and I am confident He will continue to do so in the future.

So I am back in the job market, with a better idea of what I’m looking for — not necessarily a prestigious employer with an ego-building job title, but a solid job that is local to Flint so I can be near my family and support them in all ways, not just financially.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and thanks to those who have already voiced their support. I appreciate each one of you.

On being a skilled Salesforce Administrator

I love this quote from Brent Downey and his website, I think it accurately describes what Salesforce administrators do.

What most people don’t realize is that the underlying skill set that admins require is not Salesforce but process management. Everything that we do is to enable more effective and efficient processes for our organizations. Salesforce happens to be the medium through which we do this. What this means is that Salesforce can be easily learned but what truly makes a great Admin is understanding the marriage between process and the technology. Knowing how to get the process to work leveraging Salesforce is the skill. Thankfully, this comes from experience and a healthy dose of trial and error.

Brent Downey

Seth Godin on Leading Up

Seth Godin recently gave a powerful talk at Creative Mornings, where he talked about several ideas, including “leading up.”

One of the things that I hear the most after I give a talk or someone reads one of my books is, ‘That’s great, but my boss won’t let me. I’d love to do something like that, but my boss won’t let me.’

Well of course she won’t! Because what you’re saying to her is, ‘I want do something really cool and really neat, and if it works I’ll get the credit, but if it doesn’t you’ll get the blame. Because you said that it was okay.’

Who would take that deal?

And that in fact, what we see is that the people who have jobs or who have clients who are making a dent in the universe, are doing it by leading the people who are ostensibly in charge to make better decisions; leading those people to have better taste; leading those people to have the guts to do the work that they’re capable of doing.

Here are my notes on the bullet points that he gave about “leading up:”

  1. Do it on purpose. Ask yourself every day, “How am I leading up?”
  2. Tell stories that resonate with those in charge.
  3. Demand responsibility but don’t worry at all about authority. In the bottom-up world that we live in now, people who take responsibility are often given responsibility.
  4. Reflect credit but embrace blame. People are eager to work with people who make them look good. Do small things — things that won’t get you fired — without asking. It’s the work that you’re after, not the credit.
  5. Convene. We’re not in the industrialist economy anymore, we’re in the connection economy, and connection creates value.
  6. If they don’t get it, go somewhere that does. This is the last resort. You don’t get tomorrow over again, you don’t get next week over again — one shot. So if you’re working with people who are truly stuck… you need to go find someone who gets it.

The whole talk is chock full of great ideas and statements. I encourage you to watch it.

The Customer Focus

I had an interaction today that reminded me of the importance of focusing on the customer, not just pushing your product to make a sale.

Arby's Roast Turkey and Swiss Sandwich

Arby’s Roast Turkey and Swiss Sandwich

I’m a fan of Arby’s. I like their food. And while I love a good roast beef sandwich with fries and a jamocha shake, when I’m there at lunchtime, that’s rarely what I order. I’m trying to be healthier. In small ways. Trying to make healthier choices. So at lunchtime, I’ve started ordering the Roast Turkey & Swiss Market Fresh® Sandwich on whole wheat bread, with a side salad (honey mustard dressing), and a Sierra Mist. That has been my go-to meal at lunchtime at Arby’s for several months now. And I almost always visit the same location. Now I’m not a daily customer there, but I’m there several times a month, and I know I interact with the same few people each time, so I expect that my order won’t be new to them, but the interaction generally goes something like this:

Arby’s employee: Thank you for choosing Arby’s. Would you like to try [whatever product they’re promoting that day]?

Me: No, thanks. I’d like combo number 11, the Roast Turkey and Swiss.

Arby’s employee: Would you like that in a combo with curly fries and a Pepsi?

Me: Yes, I’d like that in a combo, but with a side salad instead of fries, and a Sierra Mist instead of the Pepsi.

Arby’s employee: So you’d like a side salad instead of fries. What dressing would you like?

Me: I’d like honey mustard, please.

Arby’s employee: Okay, so you’d like the Roast Turkey and Swiss with a side salad with honey mustard. Would you care to make your Pepsi a large?

Me: Yes, I’d like a large drink, but I’d like Sierra Mist instead of Pepsi.

Arby’s employee: Okay, so you’d like the Roast Turkey and Swiss with a side salad with honey mustard, and a large Pepsi. Will that complete your order today?

I don’t post this to be a jerk, or to highlight failings on the part of Arby’s or its employees. I get it. They have a highly repetitive process, with probably very little variance from customer to customer. I don’t expect an Arby’s executive or manager to read this and make drastic changes to their ordering process. And I’m certainly not going to stop visiting Arby’s.

Nor do I have a problem with Pepsi. I like their product(s). And I’m aware that Sierra Mist is a Pepsi product.

But this experience made me reflect on my own interactions with my customers, and the processes that I try to build for consistency.

  • Am I too focused on the process to really pay attention to what the customers want?
  • Does the process allow the flexibility to accommodate each customer?
  • Have I become too accustomed to delivering what previous customers wanted that I fail to uniquely diagnose the needs of the current customer?
  • Can I deliver a better experience by allowing the customer more time to describe their needs?

I think I’ll remember this for a while — the tendency to sell fries and a large Pepsi to someone who wants a side salad and Sierra Mist.

Fundraising Tips

Here’s a short article that I wrote recently for my co-workers’ participation in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flint Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser. I think there are some good tips here, and I don’t want this article to get lost in Facebook:

We’re one week away from the event! How is your fundraising going? Here are five tips to help you be more effective when asking for donations:

  1. Ask in Person — It’s easy to ignore a piece of paper sitting on a desk or a table in the office. It’s much more difficult to say “no” to someone who asks directly, especially if the person asking is a family member, friend, or co-worker.
  2. Tell a Story — For some people, it may help them to simply hear how the money will be used, so do some research and be able to provide information on the organization. But to be more effective, share a story about how the organization has impacted a specific person.
  3. Remind People — Some people you ask may not provide an answer right away. So in this week leading up to the event, remind them of the event, give them a deadline (“I need an answer by Thursday at 5:00 PM”), and use the first two tactics (Ask in Person and Tell a Story) to be more effective.
  4. Say Thank You – Say it verbally, send them an email, or mail a handwritten note. However you do it, be sure to say thank you. This will make it more likely for the person to donate next time you ask.
  5. Provide Follow-Up – So what happened? How was the event? How much money was raised in total? Did you take pictures? Try to provide some kind of follow-up information to the people who donated so they see how their money was used.

Do you have any other ideas or suggestions?