As the name implies, ExAM’s “Assess Anything” feature allows users to assess just about anything that can be represented in Salesforce – whether a standard or a custom object. Still, we often recommend that our inspection customers, particularly those who are involved in property or facility inspections, use Salesforce’s standard “Account” object.
Harnessing the Power of Salesforce’s CRM
“Accounts” and “Contacts” are at the heart of Salesforce’s world-class customer relationship management solution (CRM). Administrators can use accounts to represent and gather information on the organizations they do business with or have relationships with. Because it mirrors their business processes, this is an ideal model for most of our property inspectors. Salesforce also provides key capabilities admins can use to control associated fields and page displays. By using “Record Typing”, for instance, you can differentiate and filter the information you collect within an account hierarchy (e.g., a property versus a building or a unit).
Not only does Salesforce’s Accounts and Contacts model anticipate many of our customer’s needs, it simplifies the solution we deliver. Where so much of its product base targets standard objects, it also makes it easier for customers to work with Salesforce system integrators and to add Salesforce capabilities via ExAM’s AppExchange. Equally important, it is easier to hire, train, and get Salesforce-oriented staff up to speed and apply best practices.
To help MB&A’s customers understand why Salesforce’s CRM is so powerful, we often reframe it as “Stakeholder Relationship Management”. After all, many of the things that are true of a sales process – from gathering information and nurturing relationships to collaborating – are also critical components of how our inspection customers work with their stakeholders.
It is also worth underlining that ExAM does include inspection models that can also leverage hierarchical account structures for example sampling of a property’s buildings and units (i.e., our Sampling Lightning Web Component). Currently, this is being used by inspection customers that support the Department of Housing and Urban Development Uniform Physical Condition Standard (UPCS) and will support the National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE), when the sampling model for this new inspection is released.
Three Key Account and Contact Relationships
As an inspector, you need to understand a property, its buildings, units, and the key points of contact at each level of the hierarchy. Understanding the relationship dynamic between these contacts, accounts, and your business process is critical to a successful inspection. You may, for instance, need to send automated notifications of the inspection to different points of contact or review the account hierarchy to gauge the complexity of the job that lies ahead. Lucky for you, Salesforce has a native “Account Hierarchy” view that can easily be used to display this information.
Of course, understanding the logistical and physical relationships between accounts is only one part of the inspection process. Another core component is the people who are involved. Using Salesforce, you can track three types of relationships between people and accounts. Each type of relationship described below offers a different window into your business and inspection process:
- Relationships between organizations or properties (accounts) and the people who work, live, or have another stake in them (contacts). Relationships between these accounts and other stakeholders at properties, buildings, or in units (other accounts).
- Tied to this, by placing a contact in more than one account (referred to as “Contacts to Multiple Accounts”), you can track relationships between people and the accounts they work with. For example, an inspector or inspection company may provide services for multiple accounts.
- Relationships between stakeholder accounts and other team members who deal with them (other Salesforce users). Using these features, you can create teams to provide customer support or other services for those accounts.
Since most of our property inspection customers are location-based, we recommend establishing accounts for each location and then creating separate contacts, opportunities, and cases. By applying this framework, you can get the “big picture”, maintain more accounts, and set up a few more complex reports.
More importantly, using multiple accounts means you can take advantage of account ownership, hierarchies, specific sharing settings, and more granular reporting functions. From this foundation, you can easily track and report on cases, and other forms of interaction for each account.
Track Your Customer Interactions
By keeping a record of your stakeholder interactions at each level of the hierarchy, you can easily refer back to it to source information on when you last worked with them, what you talked about, and anything you have scheduled. As an added advantage, the information you track ensures that you and your team are all up to date on the current status of that account. For example, after you get off the phone with a property manager, you can easily refresh your notes by logging key information.
Salesforce has a wealth of securities capabilities (which go well beyond the scope of this article), including:
- Permission sets
- Sharing rules
- Apex sharing
In the interests of time, we’ll focus on the advantages of the “Account” hierarchy for property inspections. Beyond the ability to leverage the parent account field, rather than having to create additional relationship fields, the account hierarchy and record types reduce complexity across the solution. Essentially, it allows you to work within one object rather than trying to manage shared settings for however many objects there are for each hierarchical level. The same applies in ExAM. (If you had a different object for buildings and properties and units, each of them would have to be separately configured as an assessable object.)
Our account-based model really begins to shine when our customers want to share inspection results, manage cases, keep track of inspection-related appeals, collaborate on deficiency remediation, or need easy access to information about their organization, properties, and buildings that’s housed in Salesforce. Because this is a mature model that has been used to support complex interactions in Salesforce for many years, it is a well-documented, well understood, and highly robust platform to share information with partners.
Leveraging “Accounts” also makes it easy to control for access at the appropriate level of an account hierarchy, and to use the following native Salesforce capabilities:
- Account Relationships enables members of an account to share data. For example, if you have multiple property managers who should only have access to information about their own buildings and units, this can easily be accomplished and extended to include relationships between accounts.
- Site-Specific Sharing Sets allow you to share data based on access to an account (e.g., you want all users belonging to an account to have access to its cases).
- Account Roles and Role Hierarchy empower you to leverage an account’s hierarchies.
I hope you have enjoyed this look into leveraging standard Salesforce Account hierarchies to support ExAM based inspections. If you want to learn more reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.