Sunday, October 26, 2008

4 Ways to Automate Tasks in Microsoft CRM Using Workflow

Are you sick of entering data into Microsoft CRM manually? How about dealing with inconsistent data that makes reporting difficult and time-consuming? Whether you are a business user or IT user, you are guaranteed to appreciate the power and flexibility of workflow within Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0. Here are four easy ways to use workflow to automate tasks that support sales and customer service. By the end of this article, you will be able to automate your processes using Microsoft CRM and workflow.

1. Assign New Leads to the Appropriate Person or Queue

If you have multiple sales people to whom are assigned leads meeting specific criteria, then this is a handy way to use workflow. For example, let's say that your territories are defined by state, and the Joe is the sales person for all of New York state. Upon the creation of a new lead with a state of New York, the lead can be automatically assigned to Joe so that it appears in his My Leads view. Then an e-mail can be sent, again automatically, to both Joe and his manager notifying them of the new lead.

Do you assign leads by some other criteria, such as industry (e.g., equipment manufacturing) or region (e.g., Northeast)? Not a problem. As long as the data identifying the lead as an equipment manufacturer or as located within the Northeast is entered in CRM, workflow events can be triggered using this data.

2. Assign New Cases to the Appropriate Person or Queue

If you have a customer service or support function, or even an internal support function (e.g., IT department), then workflow works beautifully with the service management functionality within Microsoft CRM. A common use is to assign a new case to a specific person or queue, depending on specific criteria. If the case type is IT, then it would go to the IT queue. If the case type is a Contract, then the case would be assigned to the sales person assigned to that customer.

Another criteria is priority. Most companies treat emergency requests differently than normal or low priority requests. Depending on the priority, different rules can be triggered. For example, an emergency request could be routed to the Emergency Response team. If they don't respond within five minutes, then a follow up task would be triggered to the VP of Customer Service.

3. Notify Customers on Status of Their Case

Not only can cases be assigned automatically, but customers could be kept informed about the status of their cases. Upon creation of a case, an e-mail would go to the customer who opened the case, giving them case number and who to call if they have questions. Once the case has been resolved, another e-mail could be sent to the customer informing them of the resolution and who to call if there are additional problems with the case. Constant customer contact is critical in service/support situations, and workflow can automate much of that contact.

4. Automate Creation of Procedural Tasks

Do you need to follow a procedure? Who doesn't? Let's say that upon creation of a new lead, the sales person is supposed to send a welcome letter introducing them to the lead. At the same time, the marketing department is supposed to mail a standard packet of information. Finally, five days after the packet of information has been sent, the sales person is to call the lead. How does everybody remember to do this stuff?

Workflow, of course.

Upon creation of the lead, a personalized e-mail based off of a specific template can be sent automatically to the lead.

A task would be created and assigned to the appropriate marketing queue, where a person assigned to monitor the queue handles it. Perhaps they even process the requests in bulk at the end of the day or the beginning of the next day. They may even use an external fulfillment center specifically for this purpose. Either way, the task is created automatically.

Finally, the phone call activity for the sales person is created with a due date of five days in the future, with the specific script included in the task. Now they have a reminder to call the lead and they know what they need to say.

Pretty cool, isn't it?

Conclusion

As you have seen, workflow in Microsoft CRM can help anybody using CRM, whether it is the sales manager, sales person, customer service manager, customer service rep, or anybody else. There are many other ways to automate tasks, including using more complicated logic.The only limitation is your imagination. With the ideas in this article and some creativity, you should be able to think of other ways to use workflow in Microsoft CRM for your business.

Michael Cross is a Microsoft Certified CRM Professional with Small Business Systems LLC. Visit http://www.bturnkey.com/crm.html to learn how Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 enables your people to work the way they want to work, while providing you wih the data you need to increase the number of customers, provide the quality of service your customers expect, and increase your revenues.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Crm Mash-up Catch-up

A mash-up, sounds yummy, with gravy. But for anyone out there who doesn't know what a mash-up is, or what it has to do with Customer Relationships, it is about technology, and it's great with or without the gravy! Mash-ups are basically web applications that combine content from multiple sources and serves it up as an integrated information piece. For instance, in servicing a customer, you can build a page that has the customer information (your old legacy database), past purchasing activities (your less old legacy database), the store locations (new POS) and details of purchases (inventory system), weather and news clips for their customer's area (weather network, google news), status of customer order (UPS), and payment history (SAP). What customer rep wouldn't want access to that screen. Mmmmm........

Mash-ups are going to change the way everybody does business. Mostly because mash-ups are changing the way people view and use information on the Internet, generally, right now. As a result, customer expectations will translate into very rich and specific service experiences. The push for a customized customer experience will translate into software expectations that can deliver a familiar processing environment that is in the ?comfort zone? and available where and when.
Mash ups are an exciting genre of interactive web applications that draw upon content retrieved from multiple external data sources to create entirely new and innovative services. Salesboom.com delivers on demand CRM software on a web platform utilizing mash-up capacity. This facilitates development of powerful and efficient use of information resources in the improvement of processes in the business line along with incredible improvements in data contextualization and sharing.

Salesboom incorporates standard tools such as AJAX, Javascript and XML and has separated application logic from presentation and reporting pieces to save processing resources and increase transaction times. This in turn allows Salesboom to deliver lightweight tools with rich features previously reserved for expensive, on-site applications.

The greatest benefit is that Salesboom.com can create highly customized tools, and because the technology behind the mash-up is flexible, if the business or a process changes, it is possible to change pieces of code without having to rewrite or acquire a whole new software. There are some steps though in preparing for good mash-up presentation, and it is important for any business considering CRM solutions to consider the following:


1.Salesboom uses AJAX and COMET as programming tools, a move that increases responsiveness and user interaction
2.Salesboom has a Professional Services Team that specializes in cleaning and preparing data for use in mash-ups.
3.Salesboom presents clean, intuitive interfaces in the form of Push Panels, that enable users to interact with the web mash up, be it company data, outside Internet sources, partner sites, etc.
4.Salesboom offers users tools that promote evolution of an informal corporate taxonomy enabling possibilities for organizations to use mash-ups in an incredibly profitable way.
5.The Salesboom platform guarantees access to mash-up functionality because it has adopted the Service Oriented Platform (SOP) and has a public Application Program Interface (API) as part of it's Operating System (OS) for easy incorporation of relevant information sources.
6.Salesboom promotes the formalization of the organizational workflow model.

"At Salesboom.com we offer a CRM solution, with integration options at every business line. This approach supports delivery of a highly customized customer service experience in the form of interactive mash ups. We believe that your customers are our customers ? once removed, and we take pride in delivering solid, flexible tools to you and yours?. Tom Stephano, Marketing Director, Salesboom.com

Robert Dimning is a programmer/analyst who tracks on-demand CRM Services like www.salesboom.com

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Monday, October 13, 2008

How Branding, MarComm and CRM Relate

The most important single distinction we must make in our target group for any brand is the one between prospects and customers. This is because these two groups play very different roles in our business building program.

There are two broad strategic activities involved in increasing our brands? market share. We have to keep getting more revenues. And we have to avoid losing revenues we are already getting.

We will never grow our market share if we don?t keep in-creasing our revenues. We will also never grow our market share if we keep losing more revenues than we are getting.

Each of these two strategic activities involves two functions:

There are two broad ways to keep getting more revenues:
1. We have to convert more prospects into customers.
2. We have to get our existing customers to use more of our products or services.

And there are two broad ways to avoid losing revenues we are already getting:
3. We have to avoid disappointing customers? experience of our products or services.
4. We have to avoid disappointing customers in all the other the experiences they might associate with our brand.

Of the four strategic functions, the first, that of converting more prospects into customers, is, by far, more difficult than the other three.

This is because this function involves overcoming two major barriers:
a) prospects have little or no interest in or any relation-ship with our brand;
b) prospects are already engaged in another activity that we will have to discontinue, typically that of using our competitor?s product or services.

This is the function that focuses on our prospects, the people who possess the money that is not yet being transmuted into our revenues, and are therefore the most important target toward increasing the market share of our brand.

Prospects have to made to notice our brand, they have to be made to get interested in our brand, they have to be made to desire our brand, and they have to be made to prefer our brand over its competitors, and ultimately, of course, they have to be made to purchase our brand, which is when their money becomes our revenues, and when prospects become our customers.

The remaining three strategic functions, that of increasing customers? usage, and avoiding disappointing them either with our products/services or in any other way, are, relatively, significantly easier. This is because all three of them involve dealing with people who, as existing customers, are already in a relationship with us. As such, these three strategic functions involve a degree of receptivity toward us from the people we are addressing. Indeed, with today?s interactive media, it has become easier for us to know them individually by name, know where they live, how to reach them, and be familiar with their demographics of gender, age, education, lifestyle, and other habits; and their psycho-graphics of values, interests and other preferences.

Coming back to the first strategic function, that of converting prospects into customers, we have literally to transform their existing disinterest toward our brand into a relationship. This toughest business challenge involves, above all, the WHAT of branding, and the HOW of MarComm, advertising, sales promotions, merchandising, pricing, distribution, packaging and other marketing and communications media and activities.

Branding is the most important of these because it is the conceptual essence of the entire business building effort. Branding comprises the cluster of concepts and signals that have the challenge of overcoming the greatest barriers between us and the prospect ? those of their disinterest and pre-existing preferences and habits. The disciplines and media of sales, advertising, sales promotions, distribution, pricing, merchandising and packaging, etc. then have to deliver this brand communications essence to the prospect so that it can break through the barriers of disinterest and prior practice.

CRM, or customer relationship management should cover all the HOWs involved in maintaining and strengthening the relationship with the customer, once branding has broken through and established the relationship.

In this, CRM must remain consistent with the brand communications essence, which lives on in the customer as a cluster of expectations and signals, which is the de facto the brand. Just as the above mentioned sales, marketing and communications functions must deliver the brand through media and locations, CRM must deliver, and stay true to the brand essence through all its human and other experiential interactions with the customer.

So every element of the functioning relationship with the customer, the ease of opening the package, the ease of use of the product, the performance of the product, the disposal of the packaging, the messages received by the customer, the experiences of the customer with customer service staff, with billing staff, with credit control staff, with collections staff, with vehicles bearing our brand?s logo, all must not only avoid negative residue, but also regard themselves as brand communications as well, and deliver all these activity-media in ways that are consistent with the brand.

It must be noted that CRM can also contribute indirectly to increasing revenues and market share as well. This can be accomplished by fulfilling the brand essence vis a vis the customer so thoroughly via the latter?s experiences, that customers are delighted enough to make the effort to recommend it to other people who also happen to be prospects.

Over 30 years world-class experience in strategic marketing, market research, branding, communications, and design for top global companies across the world; specifically, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Egypt, Middle East, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India and Afghanistan.

Participated in launching or building scores of major global brands, including AT&T, IBM, Kodak, CitiBank, ICI, AT&T Wireless, AT&T Business, Sperry Rand, Remington, Memorex, Frito-Lays, Pampers, Tide, Camay, Mr, Clean, Dash, Spic 'n Span, Ariel, Head & Shoulders, Vicks Vaporub, Good Year Tyres, Band-Aid, Horlicks, Aga Lux Batteries, Saridon, Aspro, Shell Oil and Cadburys.

Formerly: CEO Saatchi & Saatchi ME. Management Director, Young & Rubicam Germany. Account Director, Young & Rubicam, NY, USA. Regional Brand Director, Asia Pacific, AT&T Corp. Frankfurter Ring, Frankfurt, Germany. Commissioner of Civil Rights, Princeton, NJ USA. Director of the Board of Ethics, Princeton, NJ, USA. Treasurer, Ethical Culture Fellowship. Princeton. USA.

Currently, EVP, Senior Operations Strategist, Stealing Share, NY, USA

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Monday, October 6, 2008

How to use Microsoft CRM to Manage Client Projects

As a Microsoft partner, we help our clients implement the solutions they purchase. One challenge we have is how to track the project tasks so that we can:

1. Leverage the time-saving capabilities of Workflow within CRM.

2. Leverage the integration between CRM and Outlook so that project tasks appear in our users' Outlook Task lists and Calendars.

3. Keep the process simple while still providing enough control to keep the project on schedule and under budget.

Here is what we chose to do to manage our projects. Perhaps it will be suitable for you, as well.

1. Use Workflow Manager to create a new sales process for client fulfillment/project delivery.

While we could have chosen to create a new project entity, we wanted functionality similar to the Sales Process workflow available for Opportunities. Unfortunately, the only way we could do it (without a lot of custom coding) was to use the Opportunity entity. Sales Process workflow is not available for any other entity.

We created a new Sales Process called "CF - CRM", with a description of "Client Fulfillment - CRM Project Delivery." This naming convention separates the project processes from the true sales processes (they start with "LC" for Lead Conversion). This is a manual rule, meaning that we manually apply it to the opportunity.

The project management Sales Process has various stages (Initiate, Analyze, Diagnose, Develop, Deploy, Operate, Close) that are based on the Microsoft Dynamics Implementation Methodology. You can use whatever you want.

The beauty of this solution is that you can have as many processes as you want and apply the correct process depending on the project.

For example, we could have a project process for Point-of-Sale projects, another one for Great Plains projects, and a third one for CRM projects. Each process could be customized with its own stages and activities.

Within each stage, there are the appropriate activities and milestones. For example, within the Initiate stage, we have tasks for "Create project charter" and "Schedule project kick-off meeting."

If there are particularly critical or time-sensitive activities, then you might want to create activities to monitor the status of them and use workflow to escalate neglected or delayed activities to a manager.

You need to be careful about the level of detail and number of activities you create. Remember, this is NOT a fully functional project management application like Microsoft Project.

You can attach supporting documents or links to SharePoint documents to the activities if you need more detail.

2. Complete all stages and activities for existing sales process on opportunity.

You are now ready to start using the project management process you created in step 1.

If there is a true sales process assigned to the Opportunity, then be sure to close or cancel all activities so that the sales process is completed.

Keep the Opportunity open once the sale has been closed. We are going to continue to record activity against the opportunity.

3. Assign the appropriate sales process for client fulfillment/project delivery to the opportunity.

Now, manually apply the correct project management process to the Opportunity. The activities from the first stage will be created and assigned.

4. Complete project activities.

No go ahead and do the work. Activities can be assigned to individuals or queues. Tasks that are not on the project management Sales Process you defined in step 1 can be manually added to the opportunity.

As you complete each stage, the activities for the next stage will automatically be created.

5. Use the Sales Pipeline report or a custom report to keep track of projects.

Since we are using the built-in Sales Process functionality, you can easily run reports showing the progress of the projects. You will probably want to create your own custom reports using the standard Sales Pipeline report as a template.

6. Close the Opportunity upon completion of the project.

Once the project is completed and all activities in the project management Sales Process are completed, close the Opportunity.

Conclusion

As you have seen, Microsoft CRM can be used in creative ways to help you best manage YOUR business. Using it for simple project management is a great illustration of the "Affordable Adaptability" of Microsoft CRM. Using this illustration, think "outside the box" to come up with other ways to use Microsoft CRM to support your business. Be sure to let me know what you come up with!

Michael Cross is a Microsoft Certified CRM Professional with Small Business Systems LLC. Visit http://www.bturnkey.com/crm.html to learn how Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 enables your people to work the way they want to work, while providing you wih the data you need to increase the number of customers, provide the quality of service your customers expect, and increase your revenues.

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