Should your nonprofit look at Salesforce Service Cloud and Cases?

Service CloudYou’re a nonprofit effectively using Salesforce and the Nonprofit Starter Pack 3.0 to manage your donor relations and constituent communications. You’re looking at the next step for your connected nonprofit, and you want to bring some form of programs management into the database. Maybe you want to track direct service delivery, or you want to handle your client intake process.

For case management, resource & referral services, and other program management, some customers look toward Service Cloud and Cases to see if they will meet their needs. So, what’s the deal with Service Cloud?

Let’s dig into the structure of Service Cloud, both what it is and what it isn’t. Service Cloud is comprised of a bunch of features, many of which come with all Enterprise Edition (Sales Cloud) licenses, some of which require the extra Service Cloud feature license, and a handful are additional paid features on top of that.

What’s included with Sales Cloud

Included with the standard Sales Cloud Enterprise Edition license is a basic customer support system. In fact, the core of Service Cloud can be used entirely without the Service Cloud license! It all starts with the standard object named Case. A Case represents a customer inquiry and the resolution of it by an organization.

Cases come with all sorts of features out of the box – for case creation, Web-to-Case and Email-to-Case are easy to set up features that allow your support requests to automatically flow into Salesforce. Case assignment rules and case escalation rules are primitive automation components that can help route a request to the right agent or team, and can fire events based on case progress. Case autoresponders make the first steps of support easy. Phone integrations through OpenCTI and the CTI Toolkit let agents place and receive calls directly in Salesforce and log the activity automatically.

Since the release of the Lightning Enterprise Editions, Sales Cloud has two more fantastic freebies — Salesforce Console (formerly Service Console) and Omni-Channel. Salesforce Console had been available to Sales Cloud users for quite some time as a paid feature, but now all Enterprise Edition users have access to unlimited Console apps, for free. Salesforce Console allows admins to create information rich user interfaces for their agents, and allows developers to quickly create Console components for users to do more from one record.

Omni-Channel works in co-operation with Salesforce Console to allow agents to be “logged in” and accepting work. When a Case (or custom object) is assigned to their queue, it is automatically assigned to an active and available agent who receives a push notification to start work in their Console.

What’s added with Service Cloud

The additional Service Cloud feature license (10 free included in a Power of Us donation) adds a new layer of automation and a new layer of information to the basic customer support product.

The biggest feature in Service Cloud is Entitlement Management, which encompasses a lot of things. Entitlements allow you to determine if a customer is eligible for support (and at what SLA). For example, as a customer on the Standard Success Plan with Salesforce, you are entitled to a response on your case within two business days. In the Premier Success Plan, you are entitled to a much faster response based on the severity of the case. Entitlement Management helps call centers figure out which cases are under which SLAs so that agents can respond appropriately. Entitlement processes add new layers of automation based on the entitlement that a customer may have. Case Milestones allow you to define automation based on the age of a case and whether or not a case has reached a certain milestone in a certain amount of time. Service contracts let you represent the sale and contract of service agreements (and corresponding entitlements)

The Service Cloud license also adds the standard object Work Order, to track work out in the field.

What are additional cost features?

For an additional fee, you can also purchase the following products for Service Cloud users:

  • Live Agent – allows customers on your website live chat with a support agent
  • SOS – it’s like Live Agent, but it’s video, and its for embedding in mobile apps.
  • Knowledge – which allows you to maintain a public or internal knowledge base and attach knowledge base articles to your cases
  • Field Service – a field technician scheduling and dispatching product built on Salesforce Console
  • Communities – allow your customers to log in, view their case progress, add comments, view the knowledge base, and more.

So…what does this mean for my nonprofit?

Service Cloud is a marvelous piece of technology, because in a few hours you could go from having zero support software to having agents chatting live with your customers automatically and creating knowledge base articles as they go. It’s easy to use and leads the industry in things like Knowledge Centric Support. It includes automation opportunities that (though achievable with core platform tools) are finely attuned to support processes, and it is a great system for enabling any support team or help desk at scale.

But is it right for your organization? Well, let’s think about the ideal flow of a Case:

  1. A case is created through one of several possible channels, usually initiated by the customer (aka client) with some structured data about what their issue is.
  2. The case is automatically routed to an agent (aka program staff) who is available and suited to solve that problem.
  3. The support agent helps resolve the issue if it’s something they can control, links to a knowledge base article as appropriate, escalates it to another agent, or closes it as out of scope.
  4. Asynchronous or loggable communication (live chat, phone call, or email) occur between the agent and the customer.
  5. Supervisors or management are automatically notified and track failure to meet service obligations and milestones.

If your service delivery or support process looks like what I’ve outlined above – consider deploying the Case object to your users! The out of the box experience can be useful for large fundraising and communication teams who want to closely track their donor or constituent inquiries. It can also be useful for some human services “service request” needs where (1) there’s a distinct beginning and end to a client interaction AND (2) the built-in capabilities (email to case, web to case, escalation, etc.) of Cases are used in an organization’s process. Examples could include handling inbound calls for referrals to another agency, requests for information on services, or one-off requests from clients for household items.

If your service delivery model does match the customer support scenarios, there may still be no reason to buy the Service Cloud license additional license – the Case features needed are included in Sales Cloud. The extra Service Cloud features like entitlements and support contracts aren’t what most nonprofits are looking for, and work orders aren’t anything to be excited about. The biggest benefits come from the basic customer support package that comes with Sales Cloud.

But don’t use it for your case management

Because for all the benefits that Service Cloud and Cases come with, there are massive downsides too. The more different your service delivery looks from a customer support process, the worse the product will suit you. What are the disadvantages?

Complexity. Cases comes with a lot of moving parts, and suddenly automation is being fractured across many silos of the system. Monitoring various queues becomes more important, and data quality needs to be great.

Bending to fit a mold. You may find yourself changing your service delivery experience, or even the entire model, to better fit Service Cloud. Service Cloud was not designed for what you’re doing, but bending your programs to fit a customer support system isn’t the solution.

Cost. Simply, adopting Service Cloud and even Cases will likely cost you more if your organization’s service delivery model is dissimilar to a customer support process. First, the implementation cost of adapting Service Cloud to fit your process, and then the ongoing cost of licenses.  Most human services’ service delivery can be built out using custom objects which require less expensive platform licenses. If access to console is important, full Sales Cloud licenses can be provided to those users who need that functionality.



If your service delivery process looks a lot like a customer support process and you can take advantage of the built in goodies around the Case object, definitely explore using it to accelerate your implementation. If you find there aren’t many similarities, you are better off building out your service delivery with custom objects.