Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Salesforce.com Support: Is Quickly Not Helping Really Helpful?

So a funny thing happened on my way through a normal workday. Wearing my Salesforce.com Admin hat, I was contacted about a problem by one of our users. After guessing at the first answer -- what would be most logical -- then diving into it myself, I found myself mired in another one of those "this is something that people have been requesting from Salesforce for years and they haven't done anything" problems. That by itself would probably merit an annoyed blog post, but it's what happened after that that sent me straight to Blogger.

Let's start with a bit of background. Imagine you're in Salesforce and you're on a custom object page (I think this actually applies to standard objects, but I don't really want to explore the nuances of things that don't work). Let's say the object is a "Quote". Now you've just created this quote and you want to use Salesforce's email tool to send the Quote to your customer. But you don't want to send it just to Bob, your primary contact. You also need to send the quote to Sue in purchasing and maybe Alex in administration. Here's the screen that you'd see:
From here, you'd enter Bob's contact information in the To: and Salesforce would link the email to his contact info (including using the email address from his record). But for Sue and Alex, you'd expect to use the Additional To or the CC fields. However, if you click on the Additional to link, what you'll be brought to is a window with this at the top:
Now, what several online items suggest -- and you might expect to happen from "All Co-workers in Company" is any contacts on the Account linked to the Contact. However, what the list actually holds is all of the Users from your company. This happens from any of the search window buttons as well. Oh, and you might expect that the "Show" would let you choose from another list option. It doesn't.

If you want to add Sue or Alex, you have to type their email addresses into the Additional to or CC email windows. And if this is part of a process that you repeat frequently, you can expect to do a lot of typing.

But Wait, There's More...
This has been a problem in Salesforce for a long time. When I went looking for solutions on Google "Salesforce email additional to", I came across these outstanding ideas:

First, here are three Ideas covering the exact same issue, going all the way back six years ago.

Next, here is some misinformation in their help knowledgebase that incorrectly informs people of how the functionality is supposed to work:

Are you frustrated yet? Discovering this, I went on Twitter to share my frustration with @asksalesforce. Usually, they're pretty responsive, and the got back to me quickly. They also created a case. And this is where it gets even funnier.

The Quick Customer Service Response You Didn't Really Want
So this afternoon I received a call from Salesforce Customer Support. The call came from slightly soft-spoken Indian woman calling from a rather noisy call center room. I mention this because, between her accent and the background room noise, it made it a bit challenging to understand a lot of what she was saying. Without much of an intro, she requested that I go to GoToMeeting.com. I explained that I was in the middle of a project and she repeated her request that I go to GoToMeeting.com so that she could see the issue.

Now, the security guy in me would normally be pretty wary, but I have to admit that I was finding this so ludicrous that I decided to play along. So I fire up GoToMeeting and she gives me the meeting ID. And, of course, when I open the meeting, it immediately wants to share my screen and access my mouse and keyboard. No introductions, no gentle ask to access my screen.

Anyway, so I turn on the screen share and she asks me to demonstrate the issue. So I take her to a record and show her. Then we discuss it briefly. I also show her the Ideas. Then she proceeds to confirm that this is standard functionality. Rather than me explain, here's from the case file:
This is the standard functionality of salesforce and you also confirmed that you saw a couple ideas which were for the same issue. These ideas are under point threshold which means that they have been planned as a future roadmap and may be available in future releases. 
Needless to say, the call was a waste of both of our time. I told her she could close the case and I hung up.

In this case, Salesforce customer service was very quick in trying to help. Unfortunately, what they accomplished not only wasn't helpful, it actually annoyed me more than it did anything else. For example, they didn't even note that the ideas actually covered the same issue and, if combined, might reach their threshold for consideration. But beyond that, I could have told the Twitter team at @asksalesforce that this wasn't worth a case because I already knew they weren't going to do anything about it. I mean, the Idea Exchange shows that they've had six years to address it.

The whole thing reminds me that, several years ago I'd actually installed a component that would at least auto-complete email addresses in the Additional To field based on scanning the existing contact table. Unfortunately, like many free little add-ons over the years, I don't think that one works any longer.

So what's the take-away? While monitoring customer service channels like Twitter are great, it's probably not so great if you don't actually intend to fix the issue. For whatever reason, there are some functional issues -- like email sync that isn't using Microsoft Exchange -- that just don't rank highly (although they're supposedly close to fixing that for Gmail). Honestly, I'd be disappointed in Salesforce, but this is one of those where I really got what I expected -- I'm just no better off for having been there.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Food Brands: Kitchen Basics Stock Sucks Now. New owners. New recipe.

Once upon a time, when it seemed like there were more hours in the day, I used to write blog posts more frequently. We also used to post to our food blog more actively. In some respects, this post might be more appropriate on the food blog, but i decided to post it on the marketing blog because it definitely raises some interesting branding questions.

Now, to set the stage for you non-cooking people in the audience, chicken broth or stock is one of these essential ingredients to making better tasting foods -- it's not just something that you buy around Thanksgiving for poultry-cooking projects. We use stock all of the time, typically when you want to add liquid to a dish during the cooking process. Ideally, you make your own stock, but the process of making stock takes several hours, so its not unusual to use the packaged varieties you find in the store. Now, the downside of most store-bought stocks and broths is that they have a ton of salt in them and that gets even worse as it reduces down and the water cooks off -- a typical cooking process that could turn into a salty mess with the wrong product.

Enter Kitchen Basics Cooking Stock, a product that we found years ago and quickly became a cornerstone of our pantry. Back in 2009, we even published this post about Kitchen Basics Stock. Also, if you search the web for chicken broth comparisons, you'll find a number of older posts that rank the Kitchen Basics Stock higher than most other broths.

So imagine my surprise when I was at the store the other day and the familiar mustard yellow package of Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock had changed color. It was still yellow, but lighter yellow now, closer to a lemon yellow color than the mustard color. Initially, my assumption was that the packaging had just undergone some aging/bleaching, but I made my usual purchase (2 cartons) and headed home.

A day or two later, my wife informed me that there seemed to be something wrong with the Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock. When she started to add it to the soup she making, she noted that the stock was different. The color was lighter and the taste had changed. She then noted, as she compared the new one to an older package that we still had, that the list of ingredients on the back was different on the new, lighter colored package. Later, as we discussed it, we searched online for some explanation.

So it turns out that in 2011, Kitchen Basics was purchased by McCormick for $38 million in an effort to grow through acquisitions. You're probably familiar with McCormick from their line of spices. It appears that, some five years since the acquisition, Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock has been reformulated. Here's the original ingredient list (note, it's still listed this way on the Kitchen Basics web site and we had actually had an older package that with this ingredient list).
Now, here's what I have for the "new" version of the stock:

You'll note the removal of the vegetable stock as the second ingredient in the new version. This appears to be what's driving the flavor change.

Now it may be that this change is fairly subtle for most people, but for us, it was like somebody replaced the ultra-plush toilet paper in your home with one of those industrial toilet papers that always make you dread going to the bathroom in places that use them. It's one of those everyday products that you use and you probably don't think much about until something changes. But for us, and probably other people that use Kitchen Basics regularly, this change marks a complete re-evaluation of the products that we're using. We're now back to looking for an off the shelf chicken stock product that we can be happy with.

What makes this even more mind-boggling from a brand aspect is, this may seem like no big deal. But you also have to understand that Kitchen Basics isn't available in every grocery store and, in many cases, we've made decisions as to which retail store to choose based on whether they stocked Kitchen Basics. In software terms, this is a fundamental change to the core stack, something that affects an entire ecosystem above it. It's now entirely possible that, whatever we find as our new chicken stock of choice, that will dictate at least one of the stores that we shop in.

Thanks McCormick. It looks like we may be done with the Kitchen Basics brand.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

An Open Letter to Marc Benioff RE Dreamfest Logistics

Hi Marc,
First, let me say, thanks for replying to my tweet from the Dreamfest Event and thanks for requesting an email with details. While I know you requested an email, it seemed only fair to share aspects of it as a blog post since the whole thing started as a broadcast conversation.

First of all, let me start by saying that there are many aspects of Dreamforce that I think are great. I've been attending Dreamforce events since 2009, and I probably would have also gone to a couple of earlier ones, but I couldn't make it work. Not only have I always found the conference sessions to be helpful in gaining a much deeper understanding of the Salesforce platform, but it's also been a software/business/world eye-opening experience for the colleagues that I've brought to the event over the years. That being said, I've had my issues with Dreamforce over the years, like 2015, and my terrible Dreamforce 2013 that was so bad, I only came up for keynotes in 2014. As I've said in the past -- and once in a survey with your marketing people -- the biggest problem / challenge with Dreamforce is the crowds.

For all of the Dreamforce events that I've been to in the past, my gala concert count is far lower. Each year is different, but the biggest reason is logistics -- if you have to commute to the South Bay each night, staying late for a band after an exhausting day of running around for sessions is asking a lot. When I've stayed in the city, I've hung around for the band. At the same time, I remember seeing Stevie Wonder in the south hall of Moscone and thinking, firstly that the concrete walls and floors were the worst place that I've ever seen a band and, secondly, that it was only a matter of time before the size of the crowd overwhelmed the venue. Over the years, I've watched as the people and the venue grew, challenging the San Francisco landscape with a place large enough for the show. In that way, I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers was peak Dreamforce Gala. Closing off the Civic Center plaza was mind-blowingly awesome and, while it probably sucked for San Francisco that week, definitely ranked as one of the most amazing shows. Perhaps that contributed to making 2013 so disappointing. Last year, with the Foo Fighters, I actually considered going -- even though I was commuting -- until I saw where the event was located. While it was in San Francisco, it wasn't going to be an easy commute from the Moscone area nor back to the Caltrain for the ride home.

While I understand that this is a long opening, I want to provide a clear sense of history and, correspondingly, where my expectations and motivations were. This year, I registered on the first day of registration and secured a hotel room in the city. Despite having colleagues attending the conference, for various reasons, I found myself attending the Dreamfest event on my own. Prior to going, I was invited by our AE to use a special shuttle provided to SMB customers. After initially agreeing to that, when I discovered that the departure point for those shuttles was down in the Mission, I abandoned that plan. Instead, I walked down to Moscone West, figuring that there would be a number of shuttles there and that, traffic wise, it would be faster out of downtown than one of the hotel shuttles. I arrived at 7:00, thinking that I had left plenty of buffer before the 8:15 concert start. While the trip out of the city in traffic wasn't fast, overall we made good time, maybe 20 minutes or so, but by the time we got off 101 to make our way down to the Cow Palace, traffic was crawling. It felt like 15-20 minutes to travel a handful of blocks. I arrived at the event around 8:30, with U2 already having started their set.

While I've never seen U2 live before, I've seen a couple of their concerts on video in the past. When I saw the crowd and the way the event was set up, it was quickly clear that I would get no closer to the stage than the far back concession stands, and so I began, once again, watching a U2 concert on video using the large screen monitors near the back of the event. However, it quickly became clear that the actual audio was a second or two ahead of the video, and the irony of having had a better experience when I'd previously watched the video concerts struck me.

Leaving the Event
Around 9:30, I began wondering if I should just go ahead and leave, wondering whether there were early buses running back yet. By 9:40, I decided to head for the buses and was about out to the bus pick-up by 10:00. What I came across was a bit of a mess, to say the least. There were long, crowd control gates directing traffic through to the buses, but few people doing crowd control. You were supposed to follow these long crowd control gates (I was headed back to Moscone), but as you worked your way through them, you'd often see people climbing over them and jumping in front of you in line -- particularly since they weren't full and the "bus destination" on the street seemed so far away and, not even visible from the gates. As I started to get close to the street, more crowds, more people climbing over gates. In general, chaos.

I was standing behind the gates, on the sidewalk near the road, when the "first wave" of buses arrived (about the time the concert ended -- probably about 10:00). Rather than going through an orderly loading like was done back at Moscone West, suddenly people just started swarming toward the bus doors. It was forget about the crowd control gates, suddenly, people were three and four deep in the road trying to shove their way toward a bus door. Once the first buses were full and started to drive off, a handful of crowd-control people came through telling people that more buses would be coming and to wait where we were. Meanwhile more and more people kept streaming down the street. The crowd, from sidewalk towards the middle of the street, grew from 2-3 people deep to 6-8 to 8-10. Half the side of the roadway was filled with people standing around waiting to rush the buses doors when they opened.

There were some of us, sitting back, trying to behave with order, asking for guidance, but there were so few people. And the crowd was just getting more aggressive in trying to get buses whenever another row of buses would come through. At one point, the cops were there, attempting to help manage people getting into the bus door. Perhaps you've seen it all when you see a cop in SWAT gear trying to do people traffic control at a charter bus door. Meanwhile, with all of the crowd chaos, my thoughts kept going back to The Who concert in Cincinnati, hoping that somehow people would get this under control. Seriously. At times it felt like the crowd just might be that crazy.

The thing that really cracks you up though, that makes you think twice -- this crowd isn't soccer hooligans, it isn't "kids that don't know any better". The crowd is, theoretically, business people, professionals, grown-ups who've spent the day listening to stories of philanthropy and charity. And now, to watch them push and shove for buses. It's a reminder that crowds change people and that herds behave differently. Sadly, the whole thing also reminded me of the last Grateful Dead tour in 1995.

By 11:00, they started to try and control the people standing in the road, trying to push them back toward the sidewalk with yellow hazard ribbon, but it wasn't until about 11:10 when the cops started actually forcing people back that things started to move. Finally, I made it on the bus around 11:30 and back to the hotel. The finally funny part was that the bus driver dropped us off -- first stop -- at "The Hilton", but he was about a block away, across from Glide Memorial behind Parc55. Frankly, by that time, I was just glad to escape, but I was glad I wasn't one of the people from out of town trying to geo-locate using the map on the back of my Dreamforce badge.

Since the event, I've reflected on what was wrong and what should have been done differently. While I'm not someone who plans events on this scale, observation wise, I do have a couple of thoughts about what went wrong.
  • Too much unmanaged space between open areas and traffic controlled areas. By that I mean, there was a lot distance in crowd control gates with nobody there to manage the traffic and provide authoritative guidance. Like having one of those ribbon guides with nobody in line, people often believe that they can just jump ahead. 
  • Not clearly managed bus loading areas. At one point someone said they'll be loading at the cone. Then a bus pulled up 30 feet from the cone and a mass of people rushed the door from both directions.
  • The remote location. The Cow Palace is just too far away from San Francisco and from BART. When I checked with Google maps about walking to Balboa Park BART, it said 45 minutes walk. While finding an event location to handle the huge Dreamforce crowd is San Francisco is probably impossible, for myself, I wouldn't go to another event that isn't within walking distance.
While I waited for a bus to extract me from Daily City, I wondered if there was a band that I would be so interested in seeing that I would do another Dreamforce Gala again. At this point, I can't think of one.

Marc, I want to thank you for the conference and all of the effort that you and your team go through to make Dreamforce happen. And again, thanks for reply and the email request.