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Salesforce: An AI-Forward CRM Pioneer

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Salesforce: An AI-Forward CRM Pioneer
Can Salesforce's industry-leading solutions address all your CRM needs?

Updated: May 23rd, 2024

When you're looking at solutions to handle the customer relationship experience at your business, a few major names typically come up. Salesforce, founded in 1999, is considered a global leader in cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solutions and would invariably be one of the top choices popping up on a Google search for such products. Headquartered in San Francisco, Salesforce aims to empower businesses of all sizes and industries to connect with their customers in a more meaningful and efficient way.

In this review, we'll discuss Salesforce's many CRM features, pricing options, key advantages, potential limitations, and customer experience to help you determine if they're the right fit for your unique business needs. Read on to learn more.

Pros

Cloud-based system
Highly customizable and flexible system
Extensive reporting and analytics tools
Many third-party integrations

Cons

Can get pricey for features and add-ons
The system’s complexity could be overwhelming

Content

Quick Stats

Cloud-Based Software
Available
Cost
Starting at $25 a user per month (annual commitment)
Free Trial Available:
Available
Trustpilot Score
1.2 out of 5
BBB Rating
B-
Customer Experience
Good
Business Size Supported
Any size

Salesforce at a Glance

Salesforce is a significant player in the cloud computing industry, specializing in CRM and its many associated applications. Ever since their founding by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff, their CEO, at the end of the last century, they have come to boast a strong track record in their field. They do so by offering a suite of solutions that complement and expand on CRM, encompassing sales, service, marketing, commerce, and more. While they serve businesses of all sizes, including small and startup businesses, their robust tools and scalability options may attract larger enterprises and complex organizations. Additionally, the company's operational footprint is quite significant, extending throughout numerous countries and supporting clients across diverse industries, including those of finance, healthcare, retail, communications, education, nonprofits, tech, manufacturing, and so on.

Their CRM solutions aim to unify your customer data, automate your workflows, and provide you with actionable insights to drive business growth and customer satisfaction. These comprehensive solutions can also help you in managing customer interactions and driving sales growth, while offering your business capabilities like lead management, opportunity management, and contact management. Also, to aid in meeting your customer management needs more efficiently, they have embraced and incorporated generative artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities in many of their solutions, most notably in the shape of the Salesforce Einstein 1 tool. On top of that, they provide tools handling robust reporting and analytics tasks, allowing you to gain insights into your business's sales performance, customer behavior, and marketing campaign effectiveness. If you're not sure how they may fit in with your workflow, they offer a trial of much of their products for 30 days, so that you can properly explore and compare.

Salesforce works closely with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide their customers with a more seamless and secure experience, especially in countries where no Salesforce data centers exist. This collaboration allows for unified data management across both systems, easier integration of AWS's voice, video, and AI services into Salesforce products, and simplified purchasing of those products through the AWS Marketplace. They reinforce their commitment to data security through strong encryption measures and compliance with various industry standards and regulations, including ISO 27001, SOC 2, GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA. They also undergo regular security audits and assessments.

The company seems strongly committed to corporate social responsibility, highlighting the sustainability initiatives and philanthropic efforts that they undertake proudly on their website. While the company is not currently accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), they have been recognized for their innovative solutions and customer-centric approach, and hold a large market share in the CRM space. They generally enjoy a strong reputation among their peers and industry insiders, and were ranked as leaders by the likes of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management, as well as the #1 CRM provider by IDC for nine consecutive years.

Salesforce Key Features

They offer you all the standard CRM, sales, and marketing tools you might need for your business, with software that has organized dashboards and high-level reporting and analytics in a customizable package. With that said, here are some of the standout aspects of their solutions:

  • Consolidated command center: Their Customer 360 integrated platform houses all their core features and various products, and presents a unified view of customer data across various touchpoints and interactions. This is meant to give you a 360-degree view of the customer journey
  • Contact management: You can create and manage customer profiles with detailed information, interaction history, and personalized notes. You can also track and segment customers for targeted engagement
  • Lead management: This tool allows you to capture, track, and qualify leads to prioritize sales efforts. You can also automate lead nurturing processes with personalized emails and follow-ups
  • Opportunity management: They can track your sales opportunities through customizable pipelines, which may allow you to visualize the progress of your deals and more accurately forecast revenue
  • Account management: This tool can organize and manage your key accounts, including contacts, activities, and related opportunities
  • Case management: They provide the ability to efficiently track and resolve customer issues and inquiries through a centralized ticketing system
  • Reports and dashboards: You may gain insights into sales performance, team productivity, and customer trends through their customizable reports and intuitively designed dashboards
  • Workflow automation: This allows you to streamline and automate repetitive tasks, approvals, and notifications to increase efficiency and reduce manual effort
  • Mobile app: The Salesforce app allows sales teams to access CRM data and functionality on the go, enabling them to stay connected and productive from anywhere
  • Einstein 1: This is an add-on, integrated layer of artificial intelligence designed to enhance the capabilities of their CRM system. It is meant to create an all-around view of your customer journey by unifying data from various sources, enabling you to have more personalized interactions and informed decision-making. It empowers your sales, service, and marketing teams with AI-powered insights and recommendations to improve productivity and drive better results. Einstein 1 also leverages generative AI for automating tasks like drafting emails and creating content, all while ensuring the safe and compliant use of AI with sensitive customer data
  • Third-party integrations: Their AppExchange is a comprehensive marketplace of third-party applications and integrations that can extend your CRM functionality and allow you to access all your applications in one place. You may also build custom applications tailored to your unique business needs using their API and developer tools

As previously mentioned, their software can be customized within, or may incorporate, their various products and functionalities. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Sales Cloud: These are advanced sales tools for sales engagement, enablement, partner relationship management, and revenue intelligence
  • Service Cloud: The tools provided here focus on the customer service experience and support solutions for case management, field service, digital engagement, and self-service portals
  • Marketing Cloud: With this comprehensive marketing automation platform, you'd have tools for email marketing, customer journeys, advertising, social media, and experience personalization
  • Commerce Cloud: This comprehensive e-commerce platform enables businesses to create engaging online stores, personalize shopping experiences, and drive sales across multiple channels. It provides tools for managing product catalogs, inventory, pricing, promotions, and order fulfillment, allowing businesses to optimize their online sales operations
  • Data Cloud: You can centralize your customer data from various sources to create a single source of truth. This empowers you to build personalized customer experiences, deliver targeted marketing campaigns, and make informed business decisions based on a deeper understanding of your customers
  • Slack: This is a freemium collaboration hub that is already used by many workplaces, whether or not they also use Salesforce's CRM products. It can foster efficient communication and teamwork through instant messaging, file sharing, and integrations with other tools. It may streamline your teams' workflows and enhance productivity by centralizing communication and promoting real-time collaboration across teams and departments
  • Tableau: This tool is meant to facilitate data-driven decision-making through some advanced analytics and visualization features. You can uncover hidden patterns, explore trends, and communicate insights effectively with interactive dashboards and reports
  • MuleSoft: This solution can help you eliminate data silos, integrate diverse systems, and unleash the full potential of your data. It creates a unified view of customer information and automates data flows between applications

Salesforce CRM Pricing

The pricing of their CRM software typically depends on your business needs and size. As such, they have a multitude of plan types and tiers keyed to your specific focus. They primarily operate on a subscription model, where costs may increase significantly with the addition of advanced features, customization options, or integrations with other products, such as the Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Commerce Cloud. If you are an enterprise-level client or have a significantly large user count, you may be able to negotiate discounts or customized pricing packages directly with Salesforce.

All prices are per user per month and billed annually. Prices may be higher if billed monthly. Their more CRM-centric packages and prices are as follows:

  • Sales Cloud:
    • Starter Suite: This basic plan, priced at $25 a user per month, billed annually, offers simplified setup and onboarding, lead, account, contact, and opportunity management, email integration, and automated activity capture. It's suitable for small businesses seeking an entry-level CRM
    • Professional: Priced at $80 a user per month, billed annually, this plan enhances the Starter Suite with forecasting tools, customizable reports and dashboards, and quoting and contracting features. It is designed for sales teams who want to streamline their processes and improve sales forecasting
    • Enterprise: At $165 a user per month, billed annually, the Enterprise plan further expands on the Professional plan with advanced pipeline management and deal insights, territory management and planning, and expanded workflow and approval automation capabilities. This is ideal for larger businesses with more complex sales processes
    • Unlimited: For $330 a user per month, billed annually, the Unlimited plan offers everything in the Enterprise plan, plus predictive AI, conversation intelligence, a Premier Success Plan, and a full sandbox environment for testing and development. This plan is designed for businesses requiring maximum functionality and 24/7 support
    • Einstein 1 Sales: The most comprehensive and costly plan at $500 a user per month, billed annually. It includes all features of the Unlimited plan, along with Einstein Copilot powered by generative AI, performance management tools, sales program management, and enhanced team collaboration with Slack. It also offers the capability to connect and unify all data with Data Cloud and Revenue Intelligence. This plan is designed for businesses seeking the most advanced AI-powered sales capabilities
  • Service Cloud:
    • Starter Suite: This basic plan, priced at $25 a user per month, billed annually, offers essential tools for small service teams, including case management, customizable reports and dashboards, and a knowledge base
    • Professional: This plan, priced at $80 a user per month, billed annually, expands on the Starter Suite's features by adding case swarming, computer telephony integration (CTI) capabilities to connect phone systems with the CRM, and omni-channel case routing for efficient case distribution
    • Enterprise: Priced at $165 a user per month, billed annually, this plan adds to your customer service capabilities with a self-service help center, service console apps, advanced reporting capabilities, workflow automation for streamlined processes, and more. You can also purchase add-ons here, such as the AI-powered features of Einstein for Service
    • Unlimited: This plan, at $330 a user per month, billed annually, provides all the tools included above, plus 24/7 support, AI-powered chatbots to automate customer interactions, and live chat functionality for real-time customer engagement
    • Einstein 1 Service: The most comprehensive and costly plan at $500 a user per month, billed annually. It includes all features of the Unlimited plan, along with access to digital channels, service intelligence for data-driven insights, and Slack integration for team collaboration. It also includes the beta Einstein Copilot, a generative AI tool, and Data Cloud for a unified view of customer data

You may also consider these products for the associated features they can add to your CRM capabilities:

  • Marketing Cloud: This product offers you various packages like email marketing, social media marketing, advertising, and personalized journeys. Pricing varies based on the features, email volume, and number of contacts you need
  • Commerce Cloud: The plans found through Salesforce Commerce Cloud are tailored for B2B, B2C, and D2C businesses, with prices starting at 1% of Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) annually. B2C and D2C plans focus on storefront features and personalized experiences, while B2B caters to self-service portals and order management. Order Management and Connected Commerce are also available at 1% of GMV per order or annually, respectively, offering enhanced capabilities like distributed order management and multi-channel expansion
  • Platform: This is their foundational layer, allowing developers and admins to build custom applications, extend existing functionality, automate processes, and integrate with external systems. While the name may be confusing, this is not a pre-packaged CRM, but instead the underlying technology on which you can develop and tailor your business solutions. Pricing depends on your usage and the features you opt for

They also have packages for small businesses and specific industries, as well as some for their other products like Slack. They also offer Success Plans and many other add-ons that may increase your overall costs. You would be advised to consult their pricing page to explore all their packages, and decide which of those best fit your needs. Keep in mind that they offer 30-day free trials of their Salesforce products, to allow you to explore the functionality of their tools before committing to a subscription.

The Advantages of Salesforce

  • Free trial: You may try any of their plans for 30 days, with no commitments, in order to assess if they fit your unique business needs
  • Robust AI capabilities: Artificial intelligence informs a lot of what this company offers. On top of that, their Einstein add-on tool offers robust AI capabilities like lead scoring, opportunity insights, and activity capture, automating tasks and providing valuable recommendations to sales teams for improved decision-making and efficiency. With it, they aim to provide you a seamless and intelligent business experience, helping to improve your customer relationships and drive growth. They also ensure the safe and compliant use of AI with sensitive customer data through measures like the Einstein Trust Layer
  • Extensive customization: The tools they provide are meant to be highly adaptable, allowing you to tailor your workflows, data fields, reports, and dashboards to match your unique sales processes and requirements precisely. This flexibility may empower you to create a CRM that more closely aligns with your unique business needs
  • Robust reporting and analytics: They offer powerful reporting tools for in-depth insights into sales performance, lead conversion, and customer behavior. These may enable you to track key metrics, identify trends, and make data-driven decisions to optimize your sales strategies
  • Seamless integrations: They boast a large ecosystem of integrations with third-party applications, enabling you to connect their CRM with the many applications you already use in order to achieve seamless workflow across different systems. Those include marketing automation tools, accounting software, communication platforms, and more
  • Accessibility from anywhere: Because they provide a cloud-based solution, you can access their solutions from anywhere that has an internet connection, which offers added flexibility and convenience for your remote teams and employees on the go. This can also ensure that your accessed data is always up-to-date and secure

Why You Might Not Use Salesforce

  • Not a budget-conscious solution: Their products can be expensive, especially if you have a small business with a tight budget, because costs can increase significantly with additional features, users, and customizations. Additional fees for training, support, and certain add-ons can also contribute to the overall cost
  • Limited flexibility on lower tiers: Some advanced features and customization options are only available on higher-priced plans
  • Relative complexity: Their vast array of features and customization options can create a steep learning curve for new users on your teams
  • Implementation time: According to many sources online, properly setting up and customizing the tools to meet your unique needs can be time-consuming, and may require dedicated resources or external consultants

The Salesforce Customer Experience

Salesforce receives thousands of reviews online, with most of them carrying predominantly positive feedback from their customers. On the other hand, they also get their fair share of criticism. On TrustRadius, they get a high 8.4 out of 10 review score, and get similar scores of 4.4 and 4.3 out of 5 on Capterra and G2, respectively. They receive relatively few complaints on their BBB page, where they get a B- rating.

They are often praised for their robust functionality, extensive customization options, and powerful reporting capabilities. Users appreciate their ability to streamline sales processes, enhance team collaboration, and provide an all-encompassing view of customers. Their integration with other business tools and adaptability to different industries and company sizes are also frequently highlighted. Furthermore, many users found their interface intuitive and user-friendly, also citing the extensive learning resources and support options that are available.

Users tended to also praise specific features like lead management, opportunity tracking, and sales forecasting, which they found enabled data-driven decision-making and sales optimization. They also saw the ability to automate tasks and workflows as a significant advantage, saving them time and increasing efficiency. Many reviewers emphasized the positive impact Salesforce has had on their overall sales performance, citing increased productivity, improved customer relationships, and accelerated revenue growth.

However, not all feedback is positive. A common thread of criticism in Salesforce reviews surrounds the complexity of their solutions and the steep learning curve that comes with them. A lot of users found the sheer number of features and customization options overwhelming, especially those new to CRM products or with limited technical expertise. While many found the robust capabilities a strength, some felt overly challenged and would prefer a simpler, more streamlined experience.

Additionally, cost concerns were prevalent, particularly for smaller businesses. Such users felt that the initial purchase price, on top of subscription fees for additional features and other potential costs associated with implementation and training, were all significant barriers to entry. Other reviewers expressed frustration with what they perceived as a lack of transparency in pricing, as well as the need to purchase add-ons for certain functionalities that they require. Additionally, customer support experiences varied, with some users reporting slow response times or difficulties in getting issues resolved promptly. Finally, while Salesforce emphasizes their ability to tailor to any business, some users found limitations in customization options when it comes to specific reporting needs or deeply integrating with legacy systems.

Salesforce generally responds to BBB complaints within a few days, maintaining a professional and courteous tone. They typically acknowledge the issue and offer explanations or solutions based on their policies and procedures. Complaint resolutions vary, with some customers pleased while others are frustrated with the lack of immediate or adequate solutions. However, Salesforce does seem to put in the effort to resolve all issues satisfactorily.

Customer Support at Salesforce

They offer many ways to connect with their customer service reps and support options. You can call them at 1-800-667-6389, or 1-800-664-9073 for general inquiries. You may also request a call by filling out the form on their Contact Us page, where you can also opt for their live chat option, or leave them written feedback. You can access more support options by logging in to your account.

You can also troubleshoot on your own by visiting their help page, which has documentation on all their products, community support, videos, and an events calendar with webinars and other online sessions.

The Bottom Line

Salesforce presents as a compelling option for businesses looking to fully satisfy their CRM requirements. They provide a comprehensive set of technological products designed to fully address your customer-centric operations, which extend beyond sales to include marketing, service, commerce, and more, thus creating a unified ecosystem for businesses to engage with customers at every touchpoint. They place a strong focus on customizability, robust reporting capabilities, and AI-driven insights, and in so doing may empower your business to achieve your growth goals, regardless of its size and industry.

However, if you're considering Salesforce's offerings, you will need to carefully consider many things. Their stated strength of extensive system customization can also be a source of complexity, which demands you and your teams put in a lot of work and time in training. Cost may be another significant factor, especially for smaller businesses or those with limited budgets, because you'll find that advanced features and add-ons can quickly escalate expenses. So, while Salesforce boasts extensive capabilities and a strong reputation, it's crucial to assess whether their strengths align with your specific needs and budget. That said, making use of their free trial to fully explore their services and then comparing them with other CRM solutions will help you make an informed decision that best supports your business objectives.

Choosing CRM software for your specific needs can be challenging due to the numerous options available, each with their own set of limitations. We want to help you make an informed decision. You can start at our reviews page, where you can learn about the various CRM solutions and providers, and if you're torn between a few top choices you can utilize our comparison tool to find the perfect fit for your business needs. Additionally, you can visit our blog page for informative articles that can guide you through the decision-making process. Our goal is to help you select the best tool to streamline your operations and enhance your customer experience.

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