Brandon Van Galder on Automated Omni-Channel Routing


Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Brandon Van Galder, Technical Consultant at Arkus, Inc.

Join us as we chat about his tips for getting started with Flow, how omni-channel automation solved a big problem for him, and his tips for breaking into a Salesforce career.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Brandon Van Galder.

Tips for your first Salesforce interview

Before Brandon had ever heard about Salesforce, he was an elementary school PE teacher. When he was feeling burnt out and looking for new opportunities, he happened to hear about Trailhead and the Salesforce Admin role and pretty soon, he was off to the races. He spent about a year as an admin and is now currently a technical consultant with Arkus, Inc.

Going from doing a bunch of online training to sitting in an interview and proving that you have the skills to actually be an admin is a big step, and one that many people struggle with. “I would recommend building a custom app in Salesforce,” Brandon says, “find something in your personal life that you can potentially track in Salesforce and build some automations, and then you can talk about that in your interview.” For example, Brandon built a mileage tracker to help him with training for a 5K race.

Mastering the learning curve for flows

Brandon will be appearing on Jennifer Lee’s “Automate This!” YouTube series soon to talk about omni-channel automation. “When I first was learning, I was deathly afraid of flows,” he says, “but now I can’t look back, I can barely even use Process Builder after being a Flownatic for the last year or so.”

One important thing to keep in mind as you get into flows is that you’re going to get better at it as you go. When Brandon first started, he was trying to send email notifications with flows and it took him about eight hours to get everything working correctly. These days, he can build the same sort of thing and fully test it in a single hour.

Why you should always read the Release Notes

Brandon had chats coming in from three different sources and a lot of them were getting missed, especially around shift changes. They really needed to know who was online and when. And it just so happened that Salesforce had recently added custom components that could get the availability of agents. It just goes to show that it’s worth it to keep up-to-date on the Release Notes!

You can learn more about how Brandon solved his problem with automation on “Automate This!”. And make sure to listen to the full episode to hear his tips for getting started with flows, what to look out for when you’re implementing automation, and more.

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins podcast. We talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. And this week we are talking to Brandon Van Galder, who is a technical consultant at Arkus, but previously a Salesforce Admin and staying on that theme of automation, little bit of omni-channel, little bit of career switching in this. So it’s like a chopped salad. There’s a lot of little bit of everything in it. That’s what I’m going to call this. With that, let’s get Brandon on the podcast. So Brandon, welcome to the podcast.

Brandon Van Gal: Hey Mike. Thanks for having me.

Mike Gerholdt: Let’s get started. For those that don’t know who Brandon is, tell me a little bit about Brandon and how Brandon got into the Salesforce ecosystem.

Brandon Van Gal: Well, that’s a good story. I’ll start. Before I even knew what Salesforce was, I was a teacher and I actually taught elementary PE for most of my career. And then just got burnt out and I heard a podcast where they talked about becoming a Salesforce Admin and how you can make pretty good money, and the training for that was pretty simple, and they had this thing called Trailhead and just signed up for Trailhead after listening to that and fell in love with it immediately because I love badges and points. Fast forward two years later, still teaching. I landed my first role as a Salesforce Admin at a company called Scale Computing, and I worked there for a little over a year, and now I am currently a technical consultant with Arkus, Inc.

Mike Gerholdt: Wow. Okay. Was it my podcast? You could say it’s my podcast. If not, that’s okay.

Brandon Van Gal: It was not. It was the ChooseFI Podcast.

Mike Gerholdt: Darn it. Okay, that’s fine. I’m going to listen to that now. So that PE, we’re going to have to talk about that at the end of the show. You realize that because I think Foursquares should make a comeback because that was a huge PE game for me, but spending that time starting off as a career change before we jump into all the flow stuff, because I know that’s what people want too. What was the learning for you moving from being an educator to getting that first Salesforce job? Was this nights and weekends you were just one or two modules or here or there, or was this very deliberate? You set a goal of within two years, I’m going to be out of education. What was that time period for you?

Brandon Van Gal: It was semi deliberate. I did have a two year plan where I did use nights and weekends and more during spring break, fall break, Christmas break, and especially summer break. I would get a lot of my learning done then, and then transitioning into the business world quite different than the education world. I had to learn that at my first role as well. Just the nuances of business and how it differed from education and that first role was a great learning experience. I landed with a great team. Shout outs to Kelly and Rebecca, if you’re hearing this, thanks for all the healthy [inaudible].

Mike Gerholdt: Of course they are.

Brandon Van Gal: They really took me under their wings and showed me how to do things.

Mike Gerholdt: So I get a lot of questions and I’m spending a lot of time on this. I get a lot of questions like, man, that had to have been a hard interview because you’re sitting across the table from somebody and you’re like, look, I’ve just done a whole bunch of stuff online. What was the contributing factor or what was one piece of advice you’d give new admins that are looking to make that career change and going through that path into landing that first job?

Brandon Van Gal:I would recommend building a custom app in Salesforce. I built out a mileage tracker app for running. I did it during COVID and I started training for a 5K, so it aligned with what I was doing in my personal life. So you can just find something in your personal life that you could potentially track in Salesforce and build it. Built out some automations and then you have that you can demonstrate during your interview and talk about and share your experiences of what you did on the platform.

Mike Gerholdt: I like that. I’ve done that quite a bit actually in some of the stuff. So you mentioned automation. Let’s get into that because I know on Jennifer’s automate this episode, you are going to talk about omni-channel, which is very specific. I will say very specific because we’ve had a lot of her guests on the podcast, but what got you into automating with omni-channel and doing some of that?

Brandon Van Gal: Yeah. Well, when I first was learning, I was deathly afraid of flows. I was like process builder all the way. I’m going to ride this till it dies, and now Salesforce is basically not supporting it as much anymore. So had to learn pretty quick how to do flows and now I can’t look back. I can barely even use Process Builder and look at it and debug it anymore. Trying to figure it out. It just doesn’t make sense to me after being flown addict for the past year or so, and then specifically omni-channel at my role in scale computing, we had chats coming in from three different places and a lot of them were getting missed. Hence, the deep dive into Omni-Channel flows.

Mike Gerholdt: What was the hook? What made things click? And I asked this because I know I’ve done a previous podcast with Eric Smith and Gworth and they said, “Start with screen flows,” and screen flows are a great way to get your teeth into flow. Was the screen flows that got you or was it something else?

Brandon Van Gal: For me, it was more sending email notifications using flows just because that’s what I was doing in the business and I know you can do it just with email alerts, with workflows and things like that, but we had some unique use cases where we couldn’t use flows for that. I mean the first time I built it probably took me eight hours to do one, and then as I got better, I could whip one out in less than an hour, completely tested. And just seeing that learning curve speed up is really helpful and encouraging to myself to use it more.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. What is one area when you’re sitting down with a business, and this can be in your previous job as an admin or your current job as a consultant. What are some of the key words that you feel other admins should listen for when determining how much or where to add automation?

Brandon Van Gal: When someone says, ‘We do this all the time and manually,” that’s a good spot to look for. In some cases you can’t automate it, but in a lot of cases you can just with the power of Salesforce. So that’s what I look out for when asking questions to clients and business units.

Mike Gerholdt: So then conversely, because we love to automate all the things, what are red flags that you listen for as well when you’re like, I could do this, but it means you’re going to get 500 emails

Brandon Van Gal: When they say, I want to email every time, If you hear the word every time or on every status update or something like that, that is definitely a red flag where you can say, “Hey, let’s pump the brakes here.” Maybe having a report that shows these and then it gets emailed out once a day or once a week would be a little bit better than getting 500 email alerts in one day.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, no, that makes sense. Are there, because I’m always noodling around in an org, creating stuff. As you look at flows and flows that you’ve created in the past, are you now seeing just having done this for a while, ways to combine flows together or ways to minimize the number of flows that you’re creating?

Brandon Van Gal: Yeah, absolutely. Early on, I’d never used the invocable flows, but recently I’ve been using that more where I create at least one section of that flow and can reuse it in multiple different flows, being triggered by different actions. That’s been huge. And then I’ve also used the save as a new flow where instead of having to rebuild it from scratch, you can save a previous flow as a new one and then make whatever minor changes you need off of that, where maybe the decisions might be a little different or the loops might be a little different. Yeah. So I’ve used those two things.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, no, that makes sense. I know because I’m just looking through at different flows that I’ve created and sometimes it’s so easy and tempting to click that, create new button and you forget all the other stuff that you’ve added into an org. A little bit back on omni-channel, I think before we pressed record, you were talking about how that got started. Where was some of the omni-channel work that you did and how did that inspire you for automation?

Brandon Van Gal: At scale computing, we had chat capabilities come in from three different websites, one being like the company’s main website, one being the community user portal, and then one being the partner portal. And what was happening is usually during the tier one support agent meeting, they would all log off and then any of the chats that were routed to the tier one agents were being missed. And it just happened to be during that 30 minute window that helped us figure out what to do from there.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. It never fails. It’s always right during the shift change or something when everybody presses the little chat button on your site. So thinking through just, you are a school teacher, you moved into the ecosystem, what now do you do to just outside of the daily work to keep up to date with skills, with new features of flow? How do you plan that out?

Brandon Van Gal: I read the release notes specifically towards flow automation. That’s one of the loves. I skip over some of the other stuff I don’t necessarily work with every day, but I like to see that. And that came in handy when we were building out this Omni-Channel flow. We were manually trying to get the availability of the agents and then all of a sudden in the next release, Salesforce had these custom components where you could get the availability of all the agents in a specific queue. And that was really helpful. And knowing that’s coming down the pipeline really helps you sustain on top of those. Looking at Trailhead when they update those or make new trails is a good way to stay on top of it too, because it includes that new functionality and then watching some YouTube videos that come out every once in a while via it, Jen’s automate this or how I solved it, you see how other people solve issues instead of being just stuck in your own mind, you can see how other people think about flows and use them to solve problems.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, no, that’s great. As you build and possibly rebuild flows, what advice would you give on some best practices that you do for user adoption or people really understanding, here’s the implication of clicking this button or what this means.

Brandon Van Gal: Documentation is huge and screen recordings of the steps that are triggering the flow or what happens when you click the button are huge. In my current work now, we record videos and then share them with the clients at times so they can see, hey, when I update this status, something’s happening in the background, but this is what it looks like on the front end so they can see the changes that were made.

Mike Gerholdt: No, that makes sense. Especially with stuff when it’s going to just trigger because the record was saved. I think behind the scenes maybe sometimes a user doesn’t always know everything else that cascades out as a result of that. So that’s good to know. What part of flow and automation is a little bit, lack of a better term here be dragons for you. It’s a little unknown. You need to learn it, but it’s still off in the distance.

Brandon Van Gal: I’d say some of those newer components that I just haven’t touched yet because I haven’t had the business use case to use. And then when you open your mind to everything on the app exchange, what’s available out there, be it from unofficial Salesforce, they have some great flow components that I just haven’t used, but I’ve seen in other people’s flows. Just trying to wrap my head around what is possible. I think I’m 25% level right now of knowing what flow can do. I feel there’s so much more out there that I just don’t even understand or comprehend at this point.

Mike Gerholdt: I don’t know if anybody’s at 100%.

Brandon Van Gal: Yeah. There’s a lot of things with outbound messages or platform events, things like that that I just haven’t touched that I still need to learn about because those are pretty powerful as well.

Mike Gerholdt: So I asked this on previous pod because I know we’d done a blog post that was probably, Jennifer did a blog post on this, but how often do you find yourself using subflows?

Brandon Van Gal: I do it on rare occasions. There’s one client I’m currently working with where I did use it where it ranks records based on their score. So if a record is created or updated, I can call it, if a record is deleted, I could call a subflow. That ranks everything. So a couple of different use cases personally that I’ve done. It’s just not something I’ve had to use that often.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, absolutely. Moving into the world of teaching, did you have a favorite PE activity?

Brandon Van Gal: Absolutely. I was a dodge-ball fan.

Mike Gerholdt: You call that dodge-ball in schools?

Brandon Van Gal: You just call it throwing and catching skills and then it’s okay. And I’m not big on having the kids sit out for a long time.

Mike Gerholdt: They would have to catch your way back in.

Brandon Van Gal: Do some exercise or whatever to come back in the game and keep it like a nonstop because if you keep it nonstop, then they’re having fun.

Mike Gerholdt: Do you ever do the dodge-ball with… We used to put these boxes in the back of the gym and so in addition to getting all the people out, you also had to knock the boxes down.

Brandon Van Gal: Yeah. We had you use cones or bowling pins on the back. We’d call it pinball bombardment, but same thing, dodge-ball rules, but the real objective for the game was knock down the pins. If you do that type of thing.

Mike Gerholdt: You win. You get the whole thing. Yeah. Even if nobody’s out, you can knock both pit. We did that. Yeah. Of course, immediately when somebody says dodge-ball, I go right to the movie Dodge Ball.

Brandon Van Gal: It’s classic.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. Well, this is great. I feel like we delved into some automation and even touched on little career stuff as well. For people looking to make that switch to go from A to B, whatever A is to either getting into consulting or looking at an admin or consulting job, what was one thing that kept you going?

Brandon Van Gal: I just really fell in love with Salesforce. Once I started digging in. I didn’t know what it was when I heard the podcast, I’d listened to the podcast twice, Google what it was, look at what Trailhead was I had, I didn’t know what a CRM was when I first started, but I’d say, “Yeah, just give it a try.” Jump on Trailhead, do a couple of modules, and then if you feel that itch and you like it, just keep going because there’s a position out there for you.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. No, that’s great. And then ball house fails, we can always get a game of dodge-ball together.

Brandon Van Gal: That’s right.

Mike Gerholdt: Awesome. Brandon, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Brandon Van Gal: Yeah, thanks for having me, Mike.

Mike Gerholdt: So it’s fun to have Brandon on the podcast and talk about automation and the way he approaches things. And also it was learning journey. I couldn’t help but dive into that. And it wouldn’t be the Salesforce admins podcast if we didn’t talk about something fun like dodge-ball or Foursquare. Did you have a favorite game while you were in school? I like foursquare. But I’d love to hear it. So send me a tweet, let me know. Also, if you still play that game, good for you because I would love to mark out some chalk on my driveway and get a Foursquare game going. But anyway, I digress.
If you want to learn more about all things Salesforce Admin, go to to find more resources, including any of the links that we mentioned in this episode as well as a full transcript. You can stay up to date with us on social. We are @Salesforce.Admns on Twitter. Gillian, my co-host is on Twitter. She is @GillianKBruce. And of course I am at Mike Gerholdt. So with that stay safe, stay awesome, and stay tuned for the next episode. We’ll see you in the cloud.

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