Salesforce for Outlook Really Falls Short

salesforce for outlook, salesforce outlook integrationOne aspect of Salesforce.com strategy remains a mystery to its customers and Wall Street. Why doesn’t the company offer better email integration? After all, email is still the most frequent mode of business communications. The volume of emails that sales professionals get each day is overwhelming and no amount of chatter on the part of Salesforce.com CEO, Marc Benioff, will make it go away. Salesforce users really need help with email integration, but they are not getting any from the mother ship.

Salesforce’s solution to the email integration dilemma is called Salesforce for Outlook. There are two main issues with this Salesforce for Outlook plug-in:

  1. it is a manual tool and
  2. it only works with Outlook on PC connected to a Microsoft Exchange

The problem with a manual email syncing tool like Salesforce for Outlook is that it creates work; it doesn’t eliminate work. Every time a user opens an email and clicks the ADD TO SALESFORCE button takes time – just a little bit of time – but time nonetheless. And those little clicks add up. With the average business user getting 250 relevant emails per week, adding emails to Salesforce can take up to 3 hours of unproductive time per month.

Even worse, the end-user doing the clicking gets no immediate benefit for his or her manual act. Every psychologist will tell you that unrewarded behavior does not persist. After an initial burst of energy and adoption, Salesforce for Outlook usage will start to decline and then cease all together. The net result is that emails don’t get posted in Salesforce so the value of Salesforce is diminished by the value of the missing email data. With no data, sales operations can’t write activity reports and user performance can’t be measured.

The other major drawback of Salesforce for Outlook is that it only works on Outlook on PC syncing with an Exchange server. If the user has any other configuration – Outlook on Mac, Linux, Gmail, GoDaddy, Rackspace, Yahoo!, etc – Salesforce for Outlook doesn’t work. Plus Salesforce for Outlook doesn’t work on a mobile device or tablet.

There has been a lot of speculation as to why Salesforce.com doesn’t provide better email integration. Looking at its AppExchange there are third party vendors who offer automated, cross platform integration like Match My Email or a Gmail plug-in like Cirrus Insight. But to date Salesforce has not offered either automation nor platform independence. Some pundits speculate that Salesforce doesn’t want to assume the support and storage load that email integration entails. Better to have it provided by vendors on the AppExchange who will field all the support calls and take the heat when a user eventually runs about of Data Storage and has to pay Salesforce to get more.

What do you think?