By: Billy Lyle
In June, the UK voted to leave the European Union. Businesses panicked and uncertainty continues to make them nervous.
True, UK manufacturing is enjoying a resurgence thanks to the weaker pound leading to more trade opportunity. But this almost passive form of success, where good things happen because of currency fluctuations rather than organizational effort, can’t be taken for granted.
To prove its worth longer term, UK businesses need to be fit for competition in a tougher market, which will inevitably arrive when the outcome of political negotiations for trade are revealed further down the line. It’s unlikely that the costs for UK/EU trade will do anything but rise. Tariffs, tax, battlegrounds of red tape, currency values, immigration and legal frameworks are all crucial to creating a favourable landscape to do business in. Those outcomes will make or break many companies.
It’s not just the UK that needs to consider its position. Trading partners across the world also need to think about how they add value to prevent loss of trade into the UK. Out with the European single market, there is a high chance that UK businesses will be more likely to choose each other for their supply chains. Thus, our overseas partners need to make similar efforts to impress to ride the turbulence. The worldwide business community needs to sell process as well as product to show the value in what they offer.
The current conditions give all businesses a suddenly equal opportunity to reassess their growth plans and goals. With improved turnover, businesses are in a better position than ever to argue the case for investment that will see them thrive far beyond the current cost-based model of trade.
Our prediction: CRM + ERP in a feedback loop the means of success
The companies already using CRM or that are about to implement CRM will be the ones to watch. They are already preparing their organizations and their people for the next wave of innovation. A business that acts now will be culturally ready to seize the transformative opportunities relevant to their sector of both the technology that is available today and whatever opportunities that it brings tomorrow.
This is where CRM comes in, although that title has been dropped from Microsoft’s newest product, Dynamics 365. The term “Customer Relationship Management” doesn’t cover half of what Dynamics 365 does. It’s a system that glues together the disparate systems and processes of ERP and CRM, including customer service, sales, marketing, field service, finance and operations can now work together. Ultimately, it creates one big feedback loop.
Let us look at 10 ways that this CRM/ERP feedback loop gives businesses a competitive edge, regardless of size.
1. Exceptional customer service
The whole Dynamics 365 platform is designed to take customer service to a level that makes it hard for customers to want to go anywhere else. Regardless of which app you choose to license and how you customize it, its two main aims are to provide a feedback loop for businesses that gives the insights to meet customer needs better in the short, medium and long term as well as the tools to deliver it more effectively.
The list is long but the headliner is the Customer Insight’s Single Customer View. This provides one 360-degree view of each customer accessed by every department (with relevant levels of access and admin). Enquiry handling and response rates are faster. The customer feels known and understood by each department. Orders are fulfilled, expectations are met and pipelines can continue to be nurtured based on new knowledge.
2. Business focus
Systems like Dynamics 365 are increasingly the backbone of business strategy. Data is not just held somewhere secure; it is surfaced in such a meaningful way that priorities and opportunities can be consistently identified. Dashboards provide a snapshot to see your pipeline and an overview of your accounts. An increase in customer service calls, a lower lead level or unusually quiet website traffic are all signposts to something more significant that you can counter immediately. The in-built dashboards will tell you the basics and with Power BI, you can drill down into much greater detail.
3. Transparent business development
Gone are the days of the sales team having an individual count of potential leads. The rise of web research, ecommerce and online communication means sales efforts need to be highly managed and effective. Relationship Insights gives sales people information about any lead or customer relationship at any moment. It uses tools such as sentiment analysis to check on the likelihood of deal closure and the next best action to take. The new business development dashboard gives you an accurate account of your pipeline as well as automating the follow up and proposal process. Not only do you have a clear picture of what business could be coming in and draw conclusions for business strategy and for production, your customers are always getting your best level of attention regardless of who is interacting with them.
4. Effective marketing
Marketing response rates rely on three main factors; 1) content relevance (how well you know your targets, their product history, their typical spend, their interests), 2) method of delivery (preferred channel, best response rates, best times to market), and 3) the handling of resulting responses (recording and tracking campaign interactions, response time, customer journey).
Being able to do all of this within one system that then uses that knowledge to better plan the next campaign is invaluable. With more customer information, segmentation is excellent and relevant campaigns can be sent to various groups then tracked and actioned. With Click Dimensions, or with Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 for Enterprise partner, Adobe Marketing, you can track website visits and interactions, segment on those interests and market back out to the customer.
Voice of the Customer gives you an integrated survey tool like Survey Monkey that lets you use the data within your system to launch, evaluate and report on key customer issues and keep a note of what that customer thought in the Single Customer view.
Social engagement can be tracked and has automated trigger features to ensure no interaction is left unattended.
5. Departmental cooperation
The single customer view means that marketing, new business development, operations, finance, production, fulfilment and distribution can all see what is happening on each project. It benefits not only the customer, but the relationships between departments. Those times when the sales team could have done with knowing that a customer had already received a brochure. Or, when a project manager should have been told there was a query with an invoice affecting a project. Removing the silos can only ever be a good thing.
6. Innovative processes
Portal capabilities are just one example of ways that you can make it easier for clients to self-serve their information or collaboration needs. Customer service, partner support, community engagement and employee self-service are all areas that can massively improve engagement, relationships, productivity and reputation.
Consignment Inventory is another. Allowing customers to keep an inventory of raw materials on their site prior to purchase not only reduces your own storage cost but allows them immediate access to supplies with the change in ownership handled by a journal process that triggers the creation of a purchase order and a product receipt. Clever.
Invoicing workspaces with the Operations app allows vendors to access their own account history.
7. Account management
No customer wants to find that they are the ones filling in information gaps to different people from the same business. Case management features ensure that any client request or issue is dealt with in agreed timescales and dashboard reporting means proactive monitoring can trigger reminders to make calls, schedule in account reviews etc. Again, that Single Customer View makes all the difference and the project/account manager can get on with nurturing the client instead of chasing down information across the company.
8. Borderless communication
This works in two ways.
Firstly, with Dynamics 365, you’re looking at a platform with cloud capabilities and technology integration that means you are not office-bound to use it. Your workforce can log in from wherever they have Internet access (although with Mobile offline that’s not always necessary) and keep information up to date meaning no delays and often, surprisingly efficient meeting follow-ups. A brochure can be triggered to be sent with one click and in the client’s hands before you’re out the car park. A follow-up meeting with a different member of staff can be requested and arranged within minutes. A contact report of agreements that you compiled whilst in the meeting will already be sitting in the customer’s Single Customer View allowing staff to note any immediate actions.
The Field Service App makes the idea of geographical boundaries even more tenuous with capabilities such as optimizing schedules, equipping a mobile workforce, managing assets and processing orders and invoices.
We say it a lot but we’ll say it again. Any CRM system is only as good as its purpose and application. You must customize to your corporate objectives. Off-the-shelf rarely works for businesses and with the customization options of most CRM systems, why would you even want to try?
Dynamics 365 takes it up a notch. Not only are you buying by plan, weight of use and subscribers, you have access to PowerApps which lets you build integrated mobile apps with one click. With so many businesses, developers and partners contributing to it, there is already a wealth of experience to follow.
It’s not only about the parts that you include, it’s also about customizing how your employees will interact with it. Office 365 is the world’s biggest productivity suite for good reason. The same intuitive and user-friendly interface that made it so popular is evident throughout Dynamics 365.
10. Apps that fit
Whilst every app offers the functionality described above, there are specific features that will give every department in your organization a competitive edge. The focused nature of each app, and the ability to phase modules in over a period of time, will be popular in 2017 as businesses begin to build on their strategies to meet their corporate goals.
- Sales App. Appropriate for sales and marketing users with processes that include Leads, Sales Quotes, Price Lists, Opportunities, Marketing Lists, Campaigns and Quick Campaigns.
- Customer Service App. Functions and processes include Case Management, Cases, Entitlements, Service Level Agreements, Unified Service Desk, Resources, Service Queues.
- Project Service Automation App. Project Estimates, Gantt Chart, Approve Project Expenses, Project Contracts, Manage Project Resources and resource Competencies.
- Field Service App. Work Order Management, Schedule Board, Field Service Invoices, Work Hour Management, Inventory Management, Territory Management.
- Marketing App. Includes Adobe Marketing Cloud and Email Marketing. More details will soon be published on this.
The EU is the perfect example of what happens when communication breaks down, when there is a divide between what people are saying they want and what politicians are hearing and acting on. The same can be said for businesses. If the UK is to face a decline in manufacturing, or in construction output, a drive to be the cheapest may just put you in the running of the race to the bottom. The companies that survive are the ones that will deliver value beyond the invoice.