Completing the 360 Degree Customer View with Salesforce Lightning Connect
This isn’t meant to be a technical or architectural guide for how to implement Salesforce Lightning Connect, merely an exploration of a specific use case. More specifically, I am going to be talking about a banking use case whereby the bank’s front office staff, back office staff, and most importantly, in this case, the customer service department are all using Salesforce. A decision has been made to integrate the banking core with Salesforce to allow users to get a view of all their customers, households, financial accounts, and the roles that individuals play on those financial accounts.
Decisions Made About Data Residency
An important decision that was made in this use case was to specifically leave out all “transactional” data such as ATM use, checks, interest payments, online bill pay, etc… This decision to not have the transaction data resident in Salesforce is a really good one. To bring all of that data into Salesforce from the core would cause issues with data volumes and in all reality it’s only valuable in certain circumstances and it is absolutely 100% read only data that would never need to be changed inside of Salesforce.
While the decision has been made to leave transactional data out of Salesforce that does mean that we have a gap in the big picture view of the customer inside of Salesforce. What happens when a customer calls the customer service department who is using the Service Cloud and asks about a specific ATM transaction where a check being deposited was “eaten” by the machine? Odds are the customer service representative needs to do one of two things; either go into a second system or call up someone who has access to another system and ask them what happened. The gap of not having this type of transactional data within Salesforce has hampered the customer service representative’s ability to do their jobs in the most effective and more importantly most satisfactory way for the customer.
Lightning Connect for Data That Resides Outside Salesforce
Utilizing a standard called OData, Lightning Connect allows for data that resides outside of Salesforce to be viewed in real-time inside of Salesforce. When doing a Lightning Connect integration you would simply create an External Data Source within the setup menu of Salesforce and define a datasource from a service URL. Once defined Salesforce makes a call out to the data source defined and brings back a list of all the tables in the external system that are available. Mind you, this is all being done through point and click functionality.
Once you authenticate and get the list of tables from the external system you select one or more to “sync”. Once it’s selected to sync it creates what is called an External Object automatically. All the field names and labels come over from the source system but you can change those if you’d like. At this point we have a new object that is treated like a custom object in Salesforce and we can create and define relationships to already existing data objects within the platform.
Completing the 360 Degree View
In our use case we would create a lookup relationship between our already existing resident Financial Accounts and our Transaction data that we are bringing in via Lightning Connect. When a user loads a Financial Account record all of the Transactions associated to that Financial Account will be loaded in real-time in a standard Salesforce related list.
Not only does this data now exist in context on a Financial Account, but we can also have a field created on our Case object that can lookup to a Transaction. So when a customer calls asking about that ATM machine that ate their check, a Service Cloud agent can create a Case related to the Contact and the specific Transaction that caused them to make the call in the first place. This opens up a whole new world of reporting and analytics as well as a much easier way for the customer support representative to solve the issue more quickly.
Lightning Connect creates a really powerful real-time view for end users of data that in all likelihood would never reside inside of Salesforce. Just because the data doesn’t reside inside of Salesforce though doesn’t mean that a user wouldn’t want to interact with it as though it did. Giving users this powerful real-time integration can help to complete the 360 degree view of the customer while empowering users to service and support customers in a way that they’ve never been able to before.