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Marketing Automation – and the impact of WannaCry May 23, 2017

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Cyber Security, Management, Marketing Automation, Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Network Security.
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Simon the Hacker

As both an enabler and recipient of marketing automation activities, I’ve been very aware of the impact of recent cyber security events on email marketing, on both sides of the fence.

Being an avid photographer, angler and technologist, I belong to many groups and am the recipient of many marketing campaigns, many of them generated by marketing automation systems.

In my professional role of implementing Microsoft CRM and marketing systems I also see the world through the eyes of the marketers, help and assist with implementing the platform, and work closely with the related CRM data used in these campaigns.

Then all of a sudden along comes the big bad wolf. “WannaCry” malware has had an impact on the whole spectrum of e-mail based marketing automation activities. And again I find myself looking at this from both sides of the fence. There is a little bit of mistrust, often overdramatized by the press, but there is certainly a risk out there.

I open e-mails on my phone, my tablet, my work PC and my home computer, and probably like most people I skim the marketing material that I receive unless I have a particular interest and want to drill down – there is just too much content to read it all. But we are now cautioned to not open unknown e-mails or click on links we don’t recognize. Very good advice, but one can slip very easily, and the hackers often front the e-mails with names we know and trust.

These hackers make it more difficult for marketers to get information to me, as I might just be over cautious and ignore them, or even worse hit the spam button (when it is not spam) and then I stop receiving these e-mails.

From the other side of the fence, my customers are not happy, as their outbound campaigns can be hamstrung by a large event. I would imagine that any campaign distributed at the same time as this last worldwide malware attack would be severely impacted, which will have a direct impact as the returns of these campaigns may not be as high as expected.

Marketing automation, especially e-mail marketing using a nurture program to send out content or links based on background activities, or relating to data and customer interaction, may need to cater for “pausing” the program or branch activity should there be another world event. Email isn’t the only channel. CRM systems can produce mail merged documents that can be personalised, printed, folded, inserted into envelopes and posted.

Protecting your customer data and lists so that unscrupulous hackers do not gain access and use your lists to spam your customers should be a priority. And yet again as I sit on my personal side of the fence, I don’t want my monthly camera newsletter to stop, I want updates from my fishing club, and am happy to click on the links that they provide.

My original blog was going to be about deep predictive analytics in relation to marketing automation, and then this recent malware story broke. I’ll return to predictive analytics next time, and in the short term I’m expecting that the good guys will start to outsmart the faceless hackers in masks so we can all get back to normal.

 

 

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Rating my Bank as a CRM Customer January 16, 2017

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
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bank-call-centre

Over the Christmas holiday I had the requirement to deal with my bank, where I have been a customer for over 15 years. I wanted to add one of my accounts to my Internet banking portfolio as well as conduct some other business relating to the business account run by my wife.

Banks as we well know were all early adopters of CRM systems however many banks still have lots of different systems and full integration is not a reality where silos of data do still exist within different departments.

I made my call, and as usual the bank employee needed to validate who I was, this is fully acceptable and a process I understand. Once they had figured out that I was who I said I was, things should really get easier, one would expect that all my information would be available.

Happily this seemed to be the case initially and they were able to add this existing account to my portfolio, however this is where it got more complicated, I had to be transferred to another department to handle my next query. CRM systems with contextual case data being able to be sent from one agent to another is something that has been around for a number of years, and I think my bank has more or less got this working, as the next agent I spoke to seemed to mostly understand what I was asking about.

They did however ask me some details about the business account just to validate again that I was who I said I was, This was not obtrusive in any way but probably unnecessary.

The outcome however is that they wanted to send us some documents to be completed, scanned and returned to them by e-mail, again a perfectly acceptable process and something that one would easily expect to find within a CRM system.

The documents were e-mailed to my personal e-mail address that I had confirmed on the call, however they were also e-mailed to my work e-mail address that the bank has an alternative. I did not ask for the mail to be sent to both accounts, there is no problem with this as I can access both e-mail accounts remotely. The CRM system should have sent content to only one e-mail address unless I specifically requested otherwise.

The documents had also been prefilled with certain information such as our address and full names etc. however some of the fields that they wanted completed is information that I know they have on hand and included my phone number and e-mail address, which shows that the mail merge was not as effective as it could have been. They also sent me a further document to be completed “If we are not existing customers” this was most bizarre as I am a customer and have been for many years.

So how do I rate them? I would give them 8 out of 10 for use of their CRM and other systems when dealing with me. Why only 8? Well I think the transition from one department to another could have been smoother, they get marked down on asking me to complete some information that they already have, and for supplying the extra form that was not needed.

I have not as yet received any survey or feedback form, but expect that will be the next action in this process if their CRM system is really comprehensive.

Overall however I think they are doing a good job, and hopefully many more companies will follow this example and be able to offer this form of comprehensive capability when dealing with a customer on the phone. Case management is very important, but it is very important to do it right.

 

Service Scheduling April 28, 2016

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Change Management, CRM, FieldOne Sky, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft CRM 2016, service management.
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Schedule

Service Scheduling with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Field Service

Continuing with my theme of field service, today I want to concentrate on the subject of scheduling, which I find very interesting as there are a number of complex factors involved.

Imagine for a moment that you had 20 service vehicles, and your average service call lasted 1 hour. That is an incredible 3,520 one hour slots available in a month based on an 8 hour day. When you just factor into this equation travel time this 3,520 could be halved if travel time is thirty minutes each side of every call.

Add another level of complexity to this model where not all service technicians are qualified to work on all jobs, and where spare parts are not uniformly distributed to all vehicles and it is unlikely that all 20 vehicles will be on the road and staffed each and every day.

This is then the starting point for scheduling. As a business owner or manager, your primary role is to keep these technicians busy for as many hours as possible in the day, as well as maintaining a level of customer service that is within your service level agreements (SLA’s).

Managing leave, repairs to the vehicles, urgent issues requiring instant responses, on-boarding new staff, time overruns, unexpected technical difficulties on site, problems with site access and catering for rush hour traffic are some of the additional elements that can contribute to the complexity of scheduling. Couple all of this with the necessity to create invoices or take payments from customers which is commonplace in certain industries and you have quite a lot on your hands.

So how does this all work in practice?

It all starts with a case in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, where a record is created based on an incoming call, e-mail or other communication and where a decision is made to create a Work Order to send out a field service technician. The case will identify the “Who”, “What” and “Where”. Who are we dealing with? What is the problem? And where will someone have to go to undertake the necessary service?

Once the Work Order is created the system is able to schedule a field service technician and vehicle, based on the “who, what and where” associated with some rules and parameters. The rules engine needs to determine what skills, equipment and spare parts are required, which vehicles and technicians are available based on thier current or future location, urgency or status of job, the SLA agreed with the specific customer, distance from previous calls and how long the call is expected to take etc.

The Customer Service Representative should then be presented with a range of this information with different date and time options which may be suitable for the customer. Once a date and time is agreed the CSR can schedule the call, which then becomes fixed data to be used in further scheduling.

It’s all very well having a system that automatically can create scheduled calls, however the call time still needs to be convenient for the customer. For example if you have booked Bob from 08h00 to 09h00 in the city centre he will probably be available from 09h30 if there is another call from the same area, this can be used in the dialog with the customer at that time. “We have someone available from 09h30, would that be suitable?”

Emergencies and urgent calls are a fact of life for anyone in the service industry and “Things Happen” which just have to be dealt with, which means that flexibility is key in the world of scheduling. Often for example, when the technician arrives on site, the customer is not there, has had to go out and has not let you know. To all intents and purposes that call is dead time, especially if the technician is booked for a follow up call an hour or so later.

When a call is cancelled or there is a no-show, the system needs to allow you to reschedule that call and reschedule the whole day if necessary. If this can be done effectively, then there is the opportunity to win back the lost time.

These broken appointments can be mitigated once the booking is made by judicious use of automated text messaging from the system, one message sent the day before “Our technician is due to see you at 08h00 tomorrow” and one on the day, confirming that the technician is on their way.

And then there is the whole subject of time recording, billing for time and materials, invoicing etc. which are often additional work items that the service technician is meant to undertake at the conclusion of the call, good mobile systems are required to ensure that this does not become an onerous task.

There are still companies out there who undertake this form of scheduling using a large whiteboards in the office, Microsoft Excel workbooks and manual desk planning sheets.

The return on investment in a scheduling system is relatively easy to calculate, if the system can win back even a small percentage of the travel time by effective route planning this will be visible on the bottom line immediately.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Field Service certainly goes a long way toward automating these processes and it is evident, that having accurate and up to date data is a vital component for scheduling.

In my next post, I will go into some detail about how these rules actually work in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Field Service and discuss some of the practicalities of setting up the system to cater for different scenarios.

 

 

Are the people working on your system Certified? March 10, 2016

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Microsoft CRM 2016, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Training.
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Beetle 700 by 438

As a young chap I had a 50cc motorcycle and then upgraded to a VW beetle, both of which I serviced myself, using the manual, plus some hints from my Dad I was able to change the plugs, adjust the timing and replace all the filters etc.

However today if I look under the bonnet of a new car, I can hardly recognise anything, and am sure that if I had a go with some spanners, screwdrivers and other tools I would make a really big mess. I therefore assume that the technicians at the garage actually know how to interact with this new technology.

Software has now reached an interesting juncture, products such as Microsoft CRM are now exceptionally complex with many very deep layers of functionality and when it comes to ERP systems such Microsoft Dynamics NAV again there is a staggering amount of capability inherent in these systems.

The software manufacturers are doing a wonderful job of trying to make complex software easy to use and intuitive. Hiding menus seems to be one of the methods that are used, the experts however do know how to get in behind the scenes.

On a smaller scale, just take for example Microsoft Word, how many of you have actually clicked on every menu at the top and investigated every single functionality? The product is bristling with features that many are just unaware of, unless you have taken an advanced course, or like me curiosity has made you go looking at all of the menus.

This brings me onto the subject of certification, to really get the best out of your CRM or ERP software you really need to be dealing with people who are certified in the product. I also encourage the end users of these systems to undertake advanced user training themselves. It’s not quite the same certification needed by your local doctor and not really a matter of life and death. However as is the case with my high tech motor vehicle, I feel much better when I realise that a certified person is actually doing the work, especially when he is working on the brakes.

 

Cases, Jobs and Work Orders in Microsoft CRM & FieldOne Sky March 8, 2016

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, FieldOne Sky, Microsoft CRM 2016, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, service management, Uncategorized.
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single van on move

This is the second in a series of posts relating to FieldOne Sky, the new Field Service module that is available within Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

The first post can be found here: https://ivorw50.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/field-service-management-in-microsoft-crm-fieldone-sky/

Right from the start, Microsoft Dynamics CRM has had a service module. It had basic case management and a knowledge base, in recent years this has been with the introduction of SLA’s entitlements, routing rules and case creation automation, and an overhaul to the knowledge base.

Case management is the natural pre cursor to service management, for example a customer calls in with a problem, a case is raised and thereafter a technician is despatched to resolve the issue. They are in effect complementary activities when looked at from the overall service perspective.

Case management can stand on its own, and the Unified Service Desk offering within Microsoft CRM may be all that some companies require where the case creates a simple job which may be handled by a service team. A good example of this is where every job is exactly the same and there is no need to specifically schedule the work. This could relate to someone who just has to read a meter at various locations during the day.

FieldOne Sky however is predicated on the notion of a Job or Work Order which is spawned by a case. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, however most of the scenarios outlined in the previous blog all could be linked to a case record. From the local government official sent out to inspect and report on compliance to the delivery person scheduled to deliver a new fridge, all of these work order records could be created from a case or incident record.

There is something that needs to be done, information about the work is recorded and the person undertaking the work will be obliged to update this information and probably indicate a time of arrival and departure in order to facilitate billing. This is what a work order is all about.

Let us look at two of the many fields that are found on a Work Order to explore the scale of the application.

Primary Incident Type

An Incident or Case can have a type for example “broken stove”, this incident type will have a number of characteristics associated with the type. These include the Default Work Order Type, the Duration and whether this incident must inherit data from agreements or contracts.

What this means is that just by creating a case of a particular type, the resultant Work Order is going to be populated with data that has been set up in the background.

The type of work order will be used to determine the specific resources that are required in order to complete the work, and are available to be scheduled based on current availability. The reality for many field service managers is that “everything is urgent” and a lot of flexibility is often required to manipulate the schedules to see that everyone ends up happy. Therefore the scheduling engine needs to be sophisticated enough to deal with this reality.

In order to highlight the deep drill down complexities of the FieldOne Sky application let us look at another field on the work order that drills down to other records which in turn drills down to more records.

Primary Incident Customer Asset

Another capability of the system revolves around the identification and intelligent recording of customer assets. The Asset record in CRM is the repository for data about a specific asset as can be seen below. Therefore a case and the resultant work order can be related to an asset.

Assets can have parent records and even be linked to a “Master Asset” and have “Sub Asset” levels to allow for granular componentry. Leveraging the standard CRM product module an asset can even be known and discovered with a price, unit of measure, and be linked to relevant price lists.

 CRM Asset

 

The preferred resource can be set on an asset. When you drill down to resource you are able to discern that it contains all the information relating to the capabilities, skills, rates, locations etc. of the resource to be used in the algorithm for scheduling. The preferred resource could be a vehicle with an inventory of spares, which could be classified as a warehouse from a system perspective.

Once configured correctly, a work order created as an outcome of a case has all of the metadata required in order to provide the person attending the call with all of the relevant information to perform the work, and report back, effectively closing the case once complete.

Therefore as can be seen, just looking at a small sample of the fields in this module of Microsoft Dynamics CRM there are deep functional capabilities that are available which will be able to address Field Service requirements for most applications.

However as is the case with the introduction of any new system, good analysis up front is never wasted and once the requirements and specific nuances and operational methodologies of the business are understood the configuration of the system can be planned and effectively implemented.

In my next post I will look at the scheduling aspects of this application.

 

Field Service Management in Microsoft CRM (FieldOne Sky) February 11, 2016

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, FieldOne, FieldOne Sky, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft CRM 2016, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, service management.
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Lion True blank and white 700 by 438

 

With the release of CRM 2016, Microsoft have included a fantastic field service module with the application. This is an add-on solution therefore is not visible with new installs. As is the case with the lion in the picture above it’s there if you look for it. However once installed as a solution a whole new world of functionality is going to be available for you.

I have recently heard some statistics from Microsoft that there are many more people out there who have jobs where they have to go and install things, fix things, inspect things, deliver things etc. than salespeople who go out and sell things.

I believe that they are correct, and this has been an area where there have always been bespoke and vertical systems developed to cater for such roles, typically in the operational space of a business. However in reality having this type of functionality as part and parcel of your CRM system makes a whole lot of sense to me.

So there you have it, yes Microsoft Dynamics CRM now has fully comprehensive field service capabilities within the application. This augments the case management functionality and updated knowledgebase. This blog is the first in a series that will outline the functionality and put into context how it actually all works and what you can do with the application.

I would like to dig a little deeper into the whole concept of people who do things. For example there are many tradespeople who need to install and maintain equipment, appliances, systems, installations etc. They need to be routed to their jobs, they may need to consume spares and accessories. They will need to record their time and ideally should have as little down time as possible between calls. If they have to replace the product in order to return it to a vendor, they need to record this, if the product or service is under warranty their actions are likely to be different should this not be the case.

There are also people who have a role where they need to inspect things, for example fire extinguishers, or swimming pool fences, building consents, roads, graffiti, street lights, cleanliness in restaurants the list is endless. They also need to be able to record what happened, take photos, plan additional meetings, make notes of non-compliance to name but a few.

Government officials from both local, central and state along with individuals from NGO’s and non-profit organizations are often sent out to interact with other people and groups, sometimes to inspect things, notify and pass on information, hold meetings, collect information and to otherwise engage with stakeholders, and when the resources need to be allocated by skill, location and urgency some form of system and planning is required.

Consider also the need to be able to book, schedule and arrange these visits so that the correct person with the correct skill, equipment, availability and even spare parts is scheduled to undertake this work. This is no simple task it requires some interesting algorithms and geo map coordination with knowledge of expected and actual timeframes to complete specific tasks. You should be able to book an individual to make a call to resolve a problem and have the certainty that you can book the next appointment and be confident that your representative will be on time and generally not be delayed due to poor planning.

Once you have a field force out and about with vehicles and or people all over the place, this needs to be graphically represented on maps, running sheets and calendars which will give the organisation the capability to react to ever changing situations, redeploy assets and reschedule others on the fly.

Where the business model has a sales team who also have interactions with the same customers or stakeholders to whom these service specialists are attending, they also need visibility as to when the install took place, who repaired the item, who raised the case, when a restaurant was inspected and the appropriate findings etc. As FieldOne Sky and CRM are in effect one system, this is visible, this is normal, this is just standard good old fashioned CRM.

And what is more, all of this needs to be possible from a mobile application so that the person undertaking the role is able to undertake their work from anywhere at any time connected or not.

Think for a moment about resourcing, how do we actually determine the rules that need to apply to get the right person allocated to a job? Do rules have dependencies? Can you fix a stove if you don’t have the correct components in your van? What happened to previous cases, are there knowledge results and learnings that can shorten the duration of a call by pre-empting a solution for the person on the ground? These are all elements that need to be configured and set up in the background to enable the system to operate effectively.

What I am describing is a range of functionality that has a fair degree of complexity all of which is catered for within this FieldOne Sky application in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. It is a very large application, it has almost the same number of entities that are found in CRM, a multitude of menu items and a host of configuration settings all of which will be detailed in this series of blogs.

This is a view of some of the items on the FieldOne Sky menu. Most of these items have dependencies on other items and specific functionality to enable the whole system to operate correctly.

Field One Settings

 

Although this is a large application, being part of Microsoft Dynamics CRM means that it can also be used very effectively by small to medium sized businesses without the necessity to have one system for CRM and another for field service management.

Next week I will start on Cases, Jobs and Work Orders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Customer service in Microsoft CRM 2016 November 12, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Microsoft CRM 2016, service management.
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lenses2

The release of CRM 2016 is imminent and there are lots of blogs, tweets and even a few really cool videos doing the rounds, however I would like to put into context one element of what all of these channels are telling us.

What is available with CRM 2016, is not just a token upgrade of the existing customer service module, there is a whole lot of new functionality and capabilities within the system.

To quote Bob Stutz from Microsoft “The way people interact with businesses has changed dramatically, and companies are looking for ways to respond.  A recent Customer 2020 report noted that by the end of this decade, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator — placing customer service at the epicenter of a company’s ability to deliver a consistent and intelligent engagement experience.”

So what has Microsoft actually done with the service module? It has put in place the tools and mechanisms to enable businesses to get a head start on this differentiator outlined above.

They have introduced something called the “Interactive Service Hub” this allows data to be presented logically, graphically and contextually. It no longer looks the same, it is vibrant, powerful and obvious.

The enhanced Unified Service Desk has had a makeover and now introduces a chat element, via Skype and Yammer, this in reality means the capability to interact directly with a customer from within the application. This is becoming more and more the norm today for customer service.

However if you look closely at what Bob has said, it’s all about customer service. Many organisations have their own internal help desks or functions where the customers they service are actually people within their own business. Consider for a moment an internal IT service desk, they need to raise tickets, action requests and meet SLA’s etc. this is what Microsoft Dynamics CRM can deliver.

Therefore it maybe is worth having another look at this new functionality, look at things from a different perspective and through some other lenses, consider that the customer may actually not be who you first thought it was.

Merging CRM Systems after Takeovers November 11, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Uncategorized.
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Maze

Over my career I have had considerable first-hand experience with Takeovers, Mergers and Acquisitions. Having been involved in the maze of confusion that is often apparent during these sometimes turbulent times has made me reflect on what I consider the three most important elements that need attention when dealing with the CRM (Customer Relationship Systems) as part of the merger process.

Often the priority for this is lower than it should be, with obviously ERP and Payroll being most important, however I would contend that if left for too long, this inaction could be seen as a risk to the business.

(1.) Pick the Best System

Just because you are the acquirer does not necessarily mean that you have the best system. Look very closely at the two systems and select the best of breed, what will give the best results and when looking at the data. Where is the better data and data structures housed? Running the two systems side by side in the short term is also possible, however this should be curtailed as soon as possible. You also need to consider existing integrations and how this will impact the process of replacing or switching off a system.

(2.) Migrate all the relevant data – quickly

Takeovers are often synergistic and both systems will more than likely have details relating to the same customers, which is probably the reason you purchased or took over the business in the first place. There may be a considerable amount of contact and activity data that can be very valuable when amalgamated. Data migrations are often “hard” however this is one that should be undertaken. Take the pain and then interrogate this data. You will also find a level of duplication that is often not easy to discern, where company names are spelt differently in the two systems. BNZ in one system and Bank of New Zealand in another. It is important to get this cleaned up as soon as practical.

(3.) Consider the risk of data walking away

There are often personnel casualties with mergers and takeovers, sometimes rightsizing is undertaken and sometimes people just leave of their own accord. If these are client facing people, and if they have access to the CRM system, suitable strategies need to be enacted to ensure that the data integrity is not breached and that existing customers and prospects within these systems are contacted and appraised of the situation.

Remember this data is one of the assets that you would have paid for as part of the deal.

Conclusion

Planning for this should be high on your agenda during the planning phase of the acquisition, and I would also suggest that even if there is a CRM system in place that has fallen into disuse and is not being used effectively, that consideration is made to evaluate this system, as the static data may well be useful.

Enhanced Document Capabilities in the 2016 release of CRM October 29, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, OneDrive for Business, OneNote.
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The reality for many people working in a sales environment, especially where the products and services being sold are complex and highly sophisticated is that there is always a requirement to have documentation. For example product specifications, proposals, diagrams, price lists etc. To be really effective these documents need to be available to different people anywhere and anytime.

Within the upcoming release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 there is an increased capability to work with documents. To start with, a new templates functionality has been introduced to assist in creating documents directly in CRM using Microsoft Word.

What is even more exciting are the capabilities around storing and online collaboration of documents from within CRM directly to OneDrive for Business and Office 365. What is significant about this new capability is that users will be able to open these documents, proposals, view diagrams, presentations etc. from which ever device they access CRM and in the appropriate application. (Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc.) This additional capability augments the existing SharePoint functionality of CRM that has been available since CRM 2011. However this now adds a real mobility factor.

See: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/What-is-OneDrive-for-Business-187f90af-056f-47c0-9656-cc0ddca7fdc2

The integration to OneNote adds an additional dimension into the mix, in that source documents, notes and preliminary information is also synced, integrated and at your fingertips.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-US/dynamics/crm-customer-center/set-up-and-use-onenote-in-crm.aspx

What is the real message?

Collaborative documents stored in a central location and accessible to all, is what it is all about. The contextual reality that the documents are linked to specific customers inside the CRM system, and can even relate to an actual contact means that the oft touted 360 degree view of the customer is now becoming a reality.

Another benefit with OneDrive for business is that it negates the situation where a multitude of different versions of documents are on different users computers at one time and where a definitive final version is often difficult to find. Another consideration is that as all documents are stored and accessible from within CRM, the requirement to have to make remote desktop connections to shared drives is no longer necessary to find and open shared documents.

There are so many more new capabilities that will be released with the latest version of CRM, I will be highlighting one of these each week.

Is a small one man business too small for a CRM system?? April 8, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft CRM 2015, Small Business.
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I recently bumped into an old friend who I have not seen for a number of years. He is now running a one man small business which is a change from his previous corporate life. Over a convivial dinner we discussed the challenges of running solo and he asked me if I thought there was any real benefit for him to use a CRM system.

He currently keeps all his contacts in Excel ,makes notes in Outlook, has only 20 to 30 customers and therefore feels that the use of a CRM system would be wasted. He does however admit that sometimes he forgets things.

To answer the question posed by the Blog, a lot depends on the type of one man business and the customer engagement model, as you should remember that the origin of Contact Management systems such as Goldmine and ACT were aimed at the one man Insurance agent and were very successful in the early 1990’s, even though they required software to be installed locally.

There certainly is scope for him to make use of a more formalised system. With the advent of Online CRM Software, for a relatively small monthly outlay he can gain access to a robust system which will easily handle the contact management fundamentals of his business. This is also ideal to have a process where long term follow up’s are recorded, as well as a history of every meeting with the customer. One needs to take a longer term view and be in a position to reengage with customers sometime in the future and at least have a reference point as to the last discussion, previous orders etc. If you only look at a CRM implementation in the “here and now” you may not see the longer term benefits.

Excel can over time become very unstructured and messy, with the resultant capability to lose or overwrite data and even just miss things that are essentially in lists.

My advice for him is to consider just using out of the box functionality, there is no real need or justification to customise the system in any way, and to just start using some of the really great functionality that is available from day one.

Good record keeping is always good.

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