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Salesforce Spring 18 Features – Communities, Chatter & Files

Spring 18

Welcome to the third post of our four part Salesforce Spring 18 release write-ups. In part one we covered all of the Lightning Sales Cloud, Sales Cloud Einstein and platform changes. Part two was all about Service Cloud and Field Service Lightning. For this part we’ll be covering all of the collaboration features: Communities, Chatter and Files. The last few releases for Communities have all been packed and Spring 18 is no exception. It’s incredible how much Community Cloud has expanded since it finished its cut-over to Lightning. One thing to note, with Spring 18, Communities is now on another version. To get most of the features we’re discussing below you need to upgrade to that latest version. Just remember, even if you’re already on Lightning, you still need to upgrade.

Alright, let’s get at this. As always, the only order is just personal preference of things I think are coolest.

  • Improved Create Case Component – We get two new components geared around self-service that when used together give us a really powerful combination. The Create Case Form that has been around for a bit is basically being replaced with a new Contact Support Form component and this new component works side by side (but it’s not mandatory) with a new Case Deflection component. Now when your user is entering in a new Case, the Deflection component will automatically begin displaying potential Articles or Discussions that could help solve the Case’s issue. This happens dynamically as the user is putting in their Case information (just like the internal knowledge component). If these presented answers solve the issue, the user can stop creating their Case, otherwise they keep going. Very cool – but there’s more. We get some awesome analytics with this as well. We get 9 pre-built reports that measure the effectiveness of these components and what content (Articles or Discussions) are contributing to deflection. With these reports, Salesforce breaks the deflection metrics into three buckets: Confirmed, Potential and Unsuccessful. A confirmed deflection is when that piece of content was viewed and the user confirms that it was helpful and they abandon their Case creation. A potential deflection is when they view that content (or realistically multiple pieces of content) and abandon the Case but they don’t confirm any of the content was helpful. Chances are that content helped, but you can’t prove it did. Finally, an unsuccessful rating is when a user reads that content but then goes and creates a Case anyway. These are super powerful metrics for your Knowledge and Community teams. I’d love to see this expand to searches that returned no results – or no results that were clicked – as well so you could start to see where you need to add content to assist with deflection. Overall this is a terrific improvement. Just as a reminder, to get these reports, you need to install the Spring 18 Community Management package from the AppExchange.

    Case Deflection Component….

    …with Analytics to Measure Deflection

  • Faster Community Builder – The theme management gets some improvements with Spring 18 that will help Community administrators build and brand their community even faster. It’s always been a pretty slick builder since Lightning, but they have made some nice improvements to the usability. One very cool one in particular is you get a listing of how many – and which pages specifically – are associated to each theme that you build. Especially as your Community gets more complex with many themes, this is a huge time saver.

    Improved Theme Management

  • Component Targeting – Huge new feature. Over the last year, Salesforce has rolled out the Audience feature to allow you to build granular targets (audiences) of users and then setup different pages for each of those groups. It’s a very powerful feature to let you personalize the community experience based on who the user is. Up until Spring, this was all at the Page level. Now you can get granular and do your targeting at the Component level as well. Instead of having to build a different page now for each audience you can have one homepage for example, but with multiple components to target those users. Unless your Community is very singularly focused, this is definitely something you should be taking advantage of. Even if it’s just something like a Marketing panel where you show different messages based on what type of users it is, turn your Community into something more dynamic and drive revenue, attendance, or whatever metric your users could help push.
  • Use CRM Fields for Audience Targeting – Boom! Back to back killer enhancements to audience targeting. Giving us component level targeting wasn’t enough for this release – we get even more granular targeting capabilities. Now you can leverage the fields on the Salesforce records related to your users – like Accounts and Contacts – to build out the audience criteria. This is huge. A great example is say that you have training or a spiff that your Community users can enroll in. With a simple field on their Contact record, you could build an audience for everyone that hasn’t enrolled yet – and then for those folks show a component to get them signed up – while for anyone that is signed up, you could show a component with their status. Turn that field into something more in-depth with maybe tiers, or other levels and you can show even deeper messaging when they get to your Community. Or how about Department or Title level targeting? Have a webinar coming up that your IT executives might be interested in? Display that banner to anyone with those values in their Contact Title and Department fields while showing another promotion to others. Lots of flexibility here.
  • Survey Component – With Spring 18 we can now build Surveys and then make them visible within your Community by using the new Survey component. This survey data is then stored in a new object that maps out your questions and then feeds the answers to the right fields. A great way to get feedback about your Community and what features your users appreciate the most and which ones they would like to have added (power trick: use the new Targeting capabilities above to only display this to Users that haven’t answered the survey yet – or haven’t in a certain amount of time! Or better yet, have multiple surveys for different types of users and present the right survey to the right user!). Great new feature. One thing on this is that on the Surveying feature itself, it says there is an additional fee for this unless you have Health Cloud. There’s no mention of this on the Survey component though. I’m assuming they are related and this might be an add-on, but I could be wrong.

    Community Surveys

  • Calendar Component – A pretty cool new Lightning component will allow you to display Calendars to Community users. A lot of uses for this. Marketing could use this to show what Events are upcoming and from this, users could even sign-up for the event and add it to their own Calendar (which you could display to them as well). Lots of potential around the Partner Community as well where those Events might be real customer / prospect visits. One use case I need to play with is if this can expand outside of just Event calendars. In Lightning, you can create a Calendar of anything – like upcoming Opportunities, Campaigns, etc. It would be really handy if you could now publish those to the Community as well.

    Community Calendars

  • Journey Builder for Communities – For those of you that are both Communities and Marketing Cloud customers, this is an intriguing new feature. Essentially, actions that your Community users take within the Community can now be leveraged to add those users into Journeys within Marketing Cloud. Events like joining the Community, Creating a Case, Joining a Chatter Group, even Posting in the Chatter Group or against a Topic can be used to drop that user into a Journey. A ton of potential here – especially when you think of Chatter Groups / Topics – you now know exactly what this user is interested in and can keep them in a Journey about that topic. Pretty powerful. In addition to the events that can trigger this, you also get some audience level targeting including: Members with the Highest Points, Members who belong to the Same Chatter Group, Members who have no Contributed in X amount of days (this one is terrific to try and keep adoption) and Members who have registered for a Community event. Super cool and will be nice to see this expand over time.
  • CMS Expansions – We started to see Salesforce building connections to various CMS systems starting in Summer 17 and then really expanding in the last Winter 18 release. This direction has been terrific as you no longer need to maintain all of your CMS data in two places. We get a few additional enhancements to this approach with Spring 18 as well. First, with the JSON connections (popular systems like Sitecore, Drupal and WordPress all leverage JSON connections), you can now connect more of these and easier within the Workspaces. You can now add up to 5 different JSON connections and within those have 10 lists each. This adds some nice additional flexibility to maybe pull in assets from different platforms. In addition to this, you can also leverage Named Credentials within these JSON connections for the first time. This allows you to bring in even secure content that only specific users have access to. Please note, the Named Credentials feature is still in beta so test that out before trying it in production.
  • Stronger Navigational Topics – Anyone that reads these posts knows that I am a Topics geek (it’s a rare sub-version of the Salesforce geek) and it makes me happy to see that we now have even more power with our Navigational Topics. Previously you could only have 3 levels – well, this can now go to 8! So with this, you can add up to 25 Navigational Topics and each of those can have 10 subtopics. Each of the 10 subtopics can have another 10 subtopics. With the new 5 levels expanding this out you can hit a maximum of 2,775 Navigational Topics and subtopics in a Community. If anyone even gets close to this, please Contact Us and send me a link. I’d love to see it. For the record, the additional 5 levels need to be added via the API.
  • Campaign Marketplace for Partner Central – This is a very cool enhancement for Partner Central. Now you have an area that Marketing can provide Campaign guidance to partners by presenting different Campaigns with all of the guidance and assets that are needed to leverage the Campaign. Partners can then sign-up to participate in a Campaign and it creates a child Campaign for them against the Campaign they signed-up for. This will let Marketing know which Partners are working each Campaign, but also then allow the Partner to co-brand those Assets and add their own information to it that won’t be shared with other Partners. Nice to see the Marketing side getting integrated more tightly with Partner Community.

    Campaign Marketplace

  • Share Links to Posts – This is one that when you first see it, you’re surprised it’s not already there. Super simple update that allows you to select “Copy Link” when you click the Share on a post. Especially important for sharing with non-authenticated users.

    Copy Link with Share

  • Community Favorites – Not a feature of Spring18, but our latest app – Fave&Follow – is complete and just a few weeks away from the AppExchange. With Fave&Follow, you can make your Community stickier by allowing your users to add Favorites for any Community content and even by subscribing to receive notifications when an Article is updated. This is a common request that we get during our Community implementations and while Lightning Experience has this, Communities do not. The concept is pretty simple – you can now add a Favorites icon to your Community that your users can click to create Favorites. Any page within the Community can be added as a Favorite. Your users can click on the icon to get a list of their Favorites (just like your browser functions) and quickly navigate to their top content. They can also manage, sort and search their Favorites. Finally, specific to Knowledge Articles, if they Favorite an Article they have the option to also Follow that Article. When that Article is updated to a new version and email will be sent to all of your users that follow it. Great way to keep your users up to date on all changes. This is a simple way to make your Community stickier and help your users find the content they want. From an Administrator stand-point, all of these Favorites are stored in standard Salesforce objects, so it’s all reportable. We include a standard dashboard to allow you to track which content is being Favorited and Followed the most. You can use this as another key KPI to add to your analytics that your content effectiveness. Finally, just like any Lightning component, Fave&Follow can be branded to match your Community’s look and feel. Our v1 of Fave&Follow is for Lightning Communities only, but right behind this we’ll have a version for Visualforce Communities. Please contact us if you’re interested.

    Fave&Follow Navigation

    Fave&Follow Manage Favorites

  • Direct Messaging for Partners – Partner Community users can now use the Direct Messaging feature if you activate it for them. Great for when you need to have a private conversation about an Opportunity versus using the Chatter Feed on the record.
  • Hashtags in Polls – You can use hashtags on Chatter posts that link them to Topics already, but previously you couldn’t on a Poll. Well, now Polls can be hashtagged as well. More Topics fun! #cool
  • Chatter Filters are Stickier – Now when you set a filter to a feed, that filter will remain there until you change it. A small but good update.
  • Live Agent Snap-In – A quick but handy feature for when you’re using Live Agent within a Community. If you have a logged in user that is looking to start a Chat, why do you need to ask who they are in your pre-chat form? You already know who they are since they are authenticated. Well, previously, to take advantage of that, it was a custom build. Now, with the new snap-in update, you can automatically flow in their Name and Email into that pre-chat form. This only works if they are logged in though – and only if you’re using the new Snap-In Live Agent.
  • Two-Factor Authentication for Communities – A useful security enhancement that gives you the option of enabling two-factor authentication for your Community users. If this is turned on, they will need to verify their identity when they log in from an unknown device (basically just like all of us are used to with your normal Salesforce license). Definitely handy when you have Partner Community users as they will have access to much more sensitive information than a standard Customer Community user. However, some of these Customer Communities are loaded with information too and this might be something to consider to secure them more.
  • Different Login Policies for Community Users – This is a nice security feature that fixes something that was always a little annoying. Previously, your Salesforce instance’s password policies had to be the same for all users hitting that instance – whether they were full internal users or Community users. Sometimes that meant you had to put really strict password policies on Community users that didn’t really need it to have your internal users as secure as you needed. With Spring 18 you can now have separate policies for your internal and your Community users. This is a beta, so definitely test it first.
  • Community Users can Self-Deactivate – You can now allow your users to deactivate their accounts. On the surface this isn’t a big deal, but this is actually pretty important especially if you have European users in your Community. With GDBR users will need more control over their accounts and the data within their accounts. As part of this, you can allow them to deactivate and then have a policy to automatically delete their information if they do this to help with compliance.

Well, that’s it for the collaboration features. We’ll have one more post for Spring 18 and that is going to focus on Lightning Flow which has a ton of updates. We always make that 4th post more of a rotating post to focus on something new and this will be our first Flow focus so that should be fun. As always, feel free to reach out with any questions or if you’d like some help implementing any of these features.

Harry Radenberg

Harry is the President and founder of GearsCRM, with more than 15 years of experience working with the Salesforce platform. Outside of Gears, Harry enjoys building debating Star Wars and Marvel with his son and sharing music and videos with his daughter. He is an avid racquetball player, bleeds Dodger blue, and always tries to find spare time to read a good fiction novel.

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