But with the rise of enterprise messaging, the inbox is no longer the sole place where this information is being communicated. Slack and Microsoft Teams are starting to become hubs for many notifications and workflows that once lived exclusively in email.
So are Salesforce email notifications dead? When does it make sense to use one vs. the other?
This article provides you with a framework for which notification channel makes the most sense to engage your team with based on the contents and purpose of the communication.
Below is a quick overview. Feel free to jump around:
- The Two Primary Alert Paradigms
- Foundational Questions That Underpin Your Alerting Strategy
- The Pros of Alerting in Slack or MS Teams
- Downsides and Cautions of Alerting in Messaging Platforms
- Email Alerts: Pros and Cons
- Optimal Alerting Use Cases For Slack and MS Teams
- The Middle Way A.K.A. Using Both
- Bringing This Framework To Your Organization (With Diagrams)
Let’s dive in!
The Two Primary Salesforce Alert Paradigms
We may intuitively understand why we alert our teams to things, but I think it’s helpful to distill it to its core as a frame for this discussion.
People must be aware of what is happening to ultimately make decisions, acknowledge milestones, and take actions. The higher the “customer IQ” of your organization, the better your team will be able to quickly take the next best actions.
Aid, Guide, and Drive Behavior
Let’s be honest: a lot of alerts are simply just to remind us to do stuff we need to do. These can be things we already know we need to do, or perhaps nudges when we’ve failed to complete the correct action in a timely manner.
These types of alerts are powerful if they result in an improvement in the desired behavior.
Almost all alerts are related to these two categories of information sharing (visibility) or driving behavior. So as you think about the efficacy of your current alerting strategy, ask yourself:
- To what degree are we all on the same page about the most important information across the organization?
- Are my teams taking the appropriate behaviors consistently and easily based on my current alerting workflows?
Even if the answer is yes, there may still be an opportunity to improve the work streams of your organization.
Foundational Questions That Underpin Your Alerting Strategy
Before we go into the nuances of what type of information is best suited for email alerts vs. Slack or MS Teams, there are things you should get clear on upfront that might make your alerting strategy better.
Where does the majority of your team and the broader company spend time?
If your team has zero adoption of Slack or Microsoft Teams, then it probably isn’t the best idea to put important information or workstreams only on that platform.
The same goes for email.
Ideally, you want to engage your team where they like working and are responsive across devices. Most companies use both messaging and email pretty well, which makes either, or a combination of both, a viable option.
If your team has not adopted messaging, but you want them to, it might be a good idea to start to pick a Salesforce + messaging integration strategy and duplicate Salesforce notifications in messaging simply as a carrot to get people engaged there while still having most things run through email.
What do you prioritize the inbox for?
Though more and more companies are beginning to talk to customers in Slack channels using Slack Connect, this is still very much a nascent behavior.
Most people still predominantly use email to talk to prospects and customers. At the same time, most companies predominantly use messaging for internal communication.
So what does this mean for system notifications and workflows?
For customer facing roles, many studies have proven that being attentive and responsive results in better outcomes. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly common to prioritize email for external communication.
If you choose to insert system notifications like Salesforce alerts in this place, just know that they will be competing for the same attention as customer communication. This type of context switching can result in slower response times and deprioritizing system communications altogether.
We suggest that you establish a point of view on both of these questions to frame the predominant place for your Salesforce alerts going forward.
The Pros of Alerting in Slack or MS Teams
There’s a lot of elements of messaging that make it an ideal place to alert your team. Let’s look at them in the vein of what we’re trying to accomplish in the first place which is information flow and behavioral change.
Communication and Information Flow
In many cases, Slack or MS Teams is a place the entire company lives. This means more people can have access to information from Salesforce than in emails limited to users of a system.
Yes, your product, engineering, marketing, and HR teams care about what’s going on with customers, too. This is one reason Salesforce is calling Slack the new Digital HQ.
Built in, non-disruptive collaboration
Information is often a catalyst for discussion. This can be probing questions or acknowledgement like when someone sets a meeting or wins a deal.
Because messaging is real-time, collaboration around a Salesforce signal happens more quickly than in email.
Components like threading messages around alerts means that these discussions can be attached to information in a way that doesn’t hijack the channel or everyone’s workspace.
Emojis can be used to acknowledge someone for an achievement like a new closed won deal.
This is a much better user experience than 35 “reply all” messages to a closed won email that clogs everyone's inbox.
Opt-In vs. Push (and how this means boosts your “Customer IQ”)
One of the beauty of channels is that people can opt-in to subscribe to them.
This is different from email alerts in that often people are assigned to them without necessarily opting in. I can’t even see all the potential email alerts I could potentially subscribe to in my organization if I wanted to unless I am a savvy admin.
This is very different when compared to the messaging paradigm where users are curators of their own information vs. subjugated to admins or management's will. I can very easily search and join channels that I find relevant that are topical as it relates to information flow:
This has broad implications for Customer 360 and information flow.
In the messaging paradigm, because people can easily subscribe or unsubscribe to what interests them, there is no limit to the channels that can be set up for people to learn about things happening in the customer journey. For example, you could have 100 different channels on customer activity and maybe you only subscribe to the top 5.
With the email alert paradigm, you need to be very careful because you’re choosing for someone what they see vs. them opting in, unless of course they asked for something.
In our experience, this usually means a lot less information is available and proactively shared.
Mobile and Consumption Speed
For bite size customer signals, messaging is easier to consume on your phone and at higher speeds. Increased information processing allows you to have a better pulse on everything that’s happening in your business.
For example, as a manager, I want to monitor all the changes for “next steps” on our deals closing this quarter and everything happening with our top 10 accounts.
I think I’d go crazy if I set up an email alert for this…
However, having this in dedicated channels that I can passively consume a few times a day is a breeze and much more aligned to my preferred consumption behavior then having to remember to go in and dissect a report.
If you allow people to subscribe to the history in channels, this means that new employees can learn from all the previous alerts and adjacent conversations.
Think about a new AE reading all the competitive deal updates or closed won reasons with discussion. This is a treasure trove of valuable information that people can use to ramp faster and better understand your customers without any additional time burden.
Though people can dig around Salesforce, they can’t go into someone’s inbox for alerts or view the subsequent discussion it caused which is often just as valuable.
If your team has adopted messaging, there are a lot of benefits to moving the flow of information into messaging. Here is a matrix you can use to think about which makes sense when for visibility based alerts or notifications.
Aiding, Guiding, and Driving Behavior with Slack & Teams
When it comes to coaxing your team to take the right next best actions, the power of messaging really shines. Let’s dig into why.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Salesforce email alerts vs. moving this workflow to messaging is that in Slack or Microsoft Teams signals can be actionable.
We’ve always taken the stance that when you tell someone to do something, they should be able to take that action right then and there!
Additionally, you can with messaging: which makes for a more frictionless experience...and the less friction, the more likely your team is to perform the desired action.
Any action that you want your team to do right now, on the heels of an alert, is a great opportunity to utilize the power and medium of messaging.
Reduced Cognitive Load
Actions in messaging not only reduce friction, they also make it crystal clear what someone has to do in any situation. Targeted CTAs or action buttons across any signal take the thinking out of it.
No more going to a page with 300 fields figuring out what in the heck needs to be done across 6 browser tabs. Simply click a button and exactly what needs to be updated in any scenario can be done right then and there.
Not only does this make rolling out new processes easy, but for new employees this drastically reduces the adoption of core business processes.
Quite a lot of Salesforce alerts you send are time-sensitive...that hot inbound lead or website visitor needs to be called now, for example.
However, time and time again, we’ve seen that the response and action speeds to these signals in messaging is just faster when compared to email. Look no further than these customer outcomes with Hubspot, Sisense, and PandaDoc.
Notifications flying across your laptop or phone screen are just more salient than another row in an email amidst customer replies asking you for something.
When you send someone an email alert, you don’t have a way to gauge its efficacy.
Did people open it? Did they click through and do what they were supposed to?
With messaging, information on engagement with your Salesforce alerts that contain actions is something you can measure!
This helps you understand which alerts work well and which ones do not. You also can understand who on your team is struggling that might require enablement.
All of this makes admins smarter and more empowered to improve the user experience of their team.
We’re bringing up mobile again!
Actions on mobile work just as seamlessly as they do on desktop. This means your team can do things like updating notes after a meeting the minute they walk out of it.
Compare this to getting an email on your phone, clicking through, having to log into an app you have to type the password in, navigate to the right fields...it’s just a nightmare which is why people don’t do it.
Where the World is Going
Remember when Salesforce said, “All improvements will only exist in Lightning”?
Well, now they are saying that they’re “rebuilding everything to be Slack first.” It’s unclear when this timeline will happen, or even what this will look like for that matter, but there is no denying that Slack and other messaging platforms will be central to where Salesforce is going.
This has implications for the workstreams you build for your team now and their ability to take advantage of new functionality and Salesforce’s production direction.
Downsides and Cautions of Alerting in Messaging Platforms
Assuming your team has adopted Slack, the main downside of alerting in messaging is that sometimes people can lose things. This is more of a challenge with any behavior oriented alert that requires a “to-do” vs. information flow and more of an issue, when the action requires a very high cognitive load.
We’ll talk about best practices for the type of Salesforce alerts that are best in Slack to avoid these scenarios soon.
What about the “noise''?
When people bring up the noise in Slack, I chuckle. This is a curation problem, not a Slack problem.
Can you imagine if you set up 100 different email alerts? Or just subscribed to 50 random email subscriptions?
How noisy would that be!?!?
Because messaging is a newer paradigm, most users don’t understand best practices around channel management and alert user experience. We’ve definitely seen people get “alert drunk” - which is fine, so long as they have a strategy to guide people to curate effectively.
Ultimately, just like keeping a tidy and manageable inbox; it’s on operations, enablement, and the user to be judicious on how they engage with messaging and the subsequent workflows inside of it.
Salesforce Email Alerts: Pros and Cons
Good ol’ email alerts have a few things going for them. The first is that we know people use email...including the slow adopters. In this sense, people should be guaranteed to at least see something if they haven’t marked these as spam or set up redirect folders.
The other thing we’ve seen with email alerts is that they “stay” easier. This is particularly true for alerts meant to drive a behavior when people use their inbox as a task management tool.
This lends itself better to certain types of alerts in some scenarios than others.
Email Alert Downsides
The downsides of email alerts are covered in much of the messaging benefits which is a juxtaposition to this traditional paradigm.
Here’s a quick hit list with a few additions:
- Not actionable
- Less accessible to other departments
- More friction with many clicks
- Not directive or instructive on next best actions
- Often end up in spam or folders
- Lack of threading or easy acknowledgement
- Cannot be leveraged for tribal learning
- Not as fun!
- Less mobile friendly
This doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for email alerts, however. There are just clear and indisputable benefits of messaging.
There is a reason that the leadership team at Salesforce is acknowledging this!
"Slack helps you bridge gaps where email previously failed, allows businesses to connect more directly with their customers, and makes workflows more efficient."
Rob Seaman, SVP Product Management SLACK, Salesforce
Optimal Alerting Use Cases For Slack and MS Teams
Now that we know why, let’s get tactical and dig into some scenarios that are ideal for messaging.
One assumption that we are making here is that your team exercises some level of control on which channels they get notifications for vs. passively consume. If you get notifications for every single channel in Slack and have not done any level of curation...bless you.
Thankfully, just like on your iPhone, curating the notification experience is entirely possible at the channel and alert level via Slack and Microsoft Teams.
So, what type of alerts are best suited for Slack and Microsoft Teams?
Time Sensitive Market Response - any scenario that requires a team member or individual to act quickly to drive the best customer outcome is best done in messaging. Some examples include:
- Hot “hand raisers”
- Website visitor engagement
- Case response or swarming
- Case escalation
- Anything with an SLA
Whether its awareness of the action or ability to problem solve in real-time, messaging is superior for any process that is time sensitive.
High coordination processes - any alert that is typically accompanied by a lot of back and forth discussion or disclosure of additional information is best done in Slack or teams due to the real-time communication element. Popular use cases:
- Handoffs across all times: SDR/AE, AE/SE, AE/CS
- Pilot kickoffs
- SDR / AE acceptance (and lack thereof)
Here is a diagram to analyze how you might want to think about supporting any process that is high coordination or collaborative.
Data Cleanliness With Low Cognitive Load - Prompting someone to do something with actions right there is ideal when an individual can execute in flow. For example, asking someone to update 1-5 out of date fields on a few Salesforce opportunities or after a meeting is ideal in messaging since you can surface everything someone needs right then and there. It’s easier to just do it in flow, then go into Salesforce and click around 3 separate windows.
Conversely, asking someone to clean up 20 opportunities in messaging probably isn’t the best experience unless you have an accompanying experience like Troops’ Grid.
Sending an alert in messaging to drive someone to a web experience where they can spend 10-30 minutes doing this task can be extremely helpful especially when launched into an ideal updating experience such as a companion grid, but they’re not likely going to do it in Slack or Teams directly.
Coaching & Inspection - Any data point or part of the sales process you are asking managers to hawk should have a dedicated channel where updates or changes can be made visible. You want a passive stream, managers can review daily and then interject with reps as they cite problems.
The benefit of doing this is that the feedback loop is much faster than viewing a report 1x a week before a 1:1 and the discussion is built in.
“Coaching alerts” is something in the category of alerting that is vastly expanding in messaging because the volume of alerts in an inbox just might not make sense vs. passively subscribing and viewing throughout the day.
Some great use cases:
- Any SLA process breach
- Next step changes
- Stage progression with exit criteria
- MEDDICC field changes (one channel for each element) or whatever sales process you are running
- Close dates pushed (out of quarter or multiple times)
- Stuck deals
Anything that is a focus area for managers should be front and center and reviewed multiple times a day in an inherently collaborative setting vs. once a week.
Passive influence and help - one of the best parts about Slack is it opens the aperture of who can get involved and help, especially at the executive level. Maybe 1 out of 10 times, an executive sees a deal, objection, or feature request where they can provide some unique insight into, but if they’re unaware their chances are zero. This is why setting up many channels that executives and adjacent teams can passively subscribe to is so powerful.
Here are some recommendations:
- Deals over a certain size moving or created
- Customers at risk
- Tier 1 prospects with engagement
- Competitors entering deals
- Feature requests
- Deals pushed out of quarter
Any time the “help hit rate” is existent but not incredibly high, presents a great opportunity to alert in messaging feeds.
Calendar & Meeting Based Workflow - usually when someone customer facing has a meeting there is a next step and information transfer. Ideally this is done in close proximity to the event so the information quality is as good as possible.
If you send your team an email after every meeting that they need to update the CRM, you will lose your job. However, if you send them a push with targeted CTAs that require the exact minimum footprint of to-dos they will thank you because its actually easier then remembering to do it and then bopping around Salesforce.
With products like Troops, you can prompt reps before, after or at the end of the day in a batch process with targeted CRM updates based on any of your meetings.
Milestones and Celebrations - your people need to know when they are kicking ass. No one wants to have their inboxes cluttered and emojis are more fun. Here are some great celebration ideas in Slack and Teams:
- Closed wons
- Upsells and cross-sells
- New meeting sets
- Deal size increases by a certain amount
- Victories for new initiatives, products, and segments
You get the idea!
Non-Salesforce User, Market Feedback - Customer 360 is a WHOLE company thing, not just the GTM teams. So messaging is a great place for anyone to share market feedback for anyone who isn’t living in Salesforce. Some great channels and feeds:
- Closed won + why (or win story)
- Closed lost
- Feature requests or product shortcomings
- Big deal alerts (again!)
- Cases related to product
It’s time to open the glass house that is customer information where everyone is. That is part of the power of messaging.
New initiatives or processes - the name of the game anytime you roll something out is learning and iterating quickly. This means having a tight, frequent feedback loop where information is shared, discussion occurs, and course correction happens often. Messaging for all the reasons mentioned above, makes a much more high velocity mechanism to accomplish accelerated learnings and outcome.
- New product feedback
- New market feedback
- New process output and inspection
Here’s an example of a workflow created when COVID hit to try and understand broad sentiment amongst our customer base.
On the process front, the other magic of messaging due to targeted CTAs is that you can make them dead simple to follow. If someone clicks a button and it has everything they need to do, there is no guesswork. This makes messaging ideal for rolling out anything that requires a behavior change.
No, Email Alerts Aren’t Completely Inferior
After everything just shared above, I can see where one walks away and goes...so is there anything I should be alerting in email?
Assuming conditions where there is adoption of messaging, there are certain things where email alerts are still a great use case.
High Cognitive Load, Low Time Sensitivity To Dos
A lot of people treat their inbox as a to-do list. In fact, yours truly does.
The upside is that I know it will get down if it's in there. The downside is that it is competing with many other things which impacts when it gets done more than anything.
If you have certain CRM actions that require someone really sitting down for 5-30 minutes to thoroughly do, email might be a good option. It’s not that messaging isn’t as good at driving someone to a web experience, it’s more just the fact that it’s sitting there as a to-do until it’s processed.
Some good examples are:
- Updates to a large number of opportunities or accounts
- Manager pipeline reviews
- Retroactive task management (i.e. log all your meetings for the week, not a good idea)
The benefit of email is its permanency in the world of Salesforce (and all system) alerts. That’s about it.
The only scenario where email might be inferior to high cognitive load tasks like bulk updating is if you cannot drive someone to an ideal update experience that is specifically attached to a notification.
For example, with products like Troops’ Grid, you can attach an alert that launches someone into a bulk-spreadsheet like updating experience with the exact records they need to see an update.
This is faster and more efficient than sending someone to a report or clean your room dashboard and asking them to then click open a bunch of separate tabs.
The Middle Way A.K.A. Using Both
The reality is there are a lot of instances when BOTH email notifications and alerts in messaging makes sense.
If someone writes into your website that they want to buy now, the reality is you should be emailing, slacking, and sending a carrier pigeon to your team to reach out.
The same even goes for big company announcements like a massive deal. The most important thing is that people see this sign of progress for your mission.
The challenge inevitably is the cost of duplicative workflows and communication for the user experience of your employees. My advice would be in mission critical circumstances to start with a broader approach in terms of messaging channel and then adjust based on the feedback of your people.
Do they like it in Slack? Email? Take a survey or some other feedback mechanism then adjust accordingly...these things are easily changed and you may find that your teams likes the safety of having both so they don’t miss anything.
Bringing This Salesforce Alerts Framework To Your Organization
By this point, you should have some mental models to determine the best way to share information and guide behavior with Salesforce alerts and other systems.
From here, my suggestion would be the following:
- Answer the foundational questions where teams spend time and the priority purpose of the inbox for your GTM teams
- Take an inventory of your existing alerts and break them out into categories related to information flow vs. aid, guiding and driving behaviors
From here, you can plot the different use cases on the matrixes shared on visibility, data and GTM processes, and collaborative processes to determine which medium (or both) makes sense for a given scenario.
You also can cluster alerts based on the more granular categories, and use the resources above to determine this answer:
- Time sensitivity - market response
- High vs. low coordination
- Data cleanliness (w/ high and low cognitive load)
- Coaching and inspection
- Requires executive or adjance team influence and help
- Milestones and celebrations
- New initiatives and processes
Once you have a map of the purpose for each engagement with your team, then you can start to implement a more effective alerting strategy.
We hope these ideas and frameworks have been helpful, and if your team does plan on leveraging Slack and Microsoft teams for Salesforce alerts (w/ bulk-inline edits) we’d love to help you at Troops! You can get started with a free trial today right here.