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Microsoft Dynamics CRM Marketing Review

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Marketing Management Review

Best of class CRM systems recognize that marketing management can be one of the clear areas where a CRM initiative can deliver payback. By analyzing the detailed and rich data tracked on customers in the CRM, marketing professionals ought to be able to refine product offerings, develop focused campaigns, and conduct marketing programs across a wide range of media and channels. The payoff for the rich data captured in the CRM is better positioning the right products for the right customers leading to greater sales.

As with most full suite CRM solutions, Microsoft CRM 4.0 lacks the sophistication of best of breed marketing solutions, but offers the benefits of an integrated solution with limited marketing functionality. It allows you to create and manage Campaigns, define one or more Marketing Lists of targets that can be used to apply Activities or tasks for Email, Phone, Fax or Hard Copy distributions. It also allows you to setup third party vendors and designate Activities directly to them. This is a nice feature as many organizations use third party print and bulk mail or email providers as participants in the campaign. It also allows you to assign a cost per contact for each Activity that is summarized as an overall cost at the Campaign level. This is a nice feature to track costs. Each Account and/or Contact targeted for the Distribution will have an Activity automatically created for them in the application that may require disposition by a sales or telemarketing person (Appointment and Phone call are two that are logical for this). Campaign Responses can be captured automatically through email links or can be generated manually as well. Those responses are collected and available as part of the Campaign as well.

A few features that stand out are the Quick Campaigns and the Marketing Lists. Quick Campaigns are somewhere between a mail merge and a full blown Campaign. They allow a user to leverage one or more Marketing Lists and generate a specific type of Marketing Activity or Distribution. This is a great feature that also has with it the ability to limit and manage who can set these up and execute them to guard against the accidental mail merge to 10,000 prospects. Another great feature is the ability to create, save and manage multiple Marketing Lists. This feature allows you to put Accounts and Contacts into specific groups that grow as additional Accounts or Contacts meet the criteria that the list is based on. These lists can be published and used by other users in the organization for mail merges and combined for Campaigns and Quick Campaigns. You can add or delete individual contacts from these lists and also search through them. Duplicates are eliminated when combining multiple lists to avoid sending an email or calling a contact more than once for a given campaign. This also a really nice feature and one that all CRM systems should have as a core feature.

With all of its nice features, Marketing is by far Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s lightest module. For example, while you can track Campaign Responses and link Campaigns as lead sources on Accounts and/or Opportunities, there is limited analytical reporting or effectiveness reporting out of the box. There is also no comparative reporting of budgets to actual for anything other than basic costs, revenues and Account and Contact reach percentages. Lastly, campaigns are built on the fundamental premise that the targets are known entities within the system. There is a lack of support for Pay Per Click (PPC) and web landing page based Campaigns that incrementally add Accounts and Contacts into the system while simultaneously tracking the effectiveness of the organic search or ad-word based PPC Campaigns. There are a number of on premise CRM solutions that offer this and in the SaaS space, and Aplicor are two that are offering it as of the writing of this paper.

Customer Service Review

Customer Service is typically an area of CRM systems where organizations manage their relationships with existing customers as they support and service products and services that those customers have purchased. Done well, it can provide a great link back to the Sales and Product Management teams to help manage customer relationships and improve products respectively. Some organizations also need the ability to assign and schedule resources in the field to diagnose and service products which is a natural extension of the Customer Service function and module.

While Sales could be considered the strongest Dynamics CRM module and Marketing the weakest one, Service, Microsoft’s Customer Service offering, is somewhere in the middle with some of the strongest features as well as some of the weakest. A key strength of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 is the ability to define and manage service Contracts for customers linked to their Orders and to link those Contracts to service levels. Another key strength is the ability to setup a working calendar for the organization as a whole and also setup individual calendars of available time by resource. This is important for setting up standard support working hours (e.g. 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM M-F) and also to establish available days and hours for each member of your support and field service teams. Couple that with the ability to setup and manage a central Service Calendar and assign resource to pre-defined, effort based Service Activities based on their availability and you’ve got the makings of a solid field service and support function.

To put this into perspective, you can define specific Service Activities, such as Air Conditioning Checkup that allows you to link a number of estimated hours and materials needed to perform that specific Service Activity when it’s assigned to someone. You can then create a Case and select that Service Activity and others as required to complete the Case. The system will then assign that Service Activity based on availability of resources and schedule them to complete it on a central Service Calendar.

There’s also a nice set of features around the creation and management of a knowledge base. Designated users can create an FAQ document, a Procedure, a Solution to a Problem or a general KB article that, once published, can be searched and accessed by other users of Customer Service. This is a feature of most CRM solutions and Microsoft does a nice job of providing flexibility in how these are created, managed and accessed. Version 4.0 also adds the ability to define articles in different languages so that it can be matched to the user. It also goes beyond that by providing reporting on how often a KB article is used to solve an issue.

For all of its strengths, the Service module lacks a few key features. For example, a customer self service portal is a given for most of its CRM competitors, but is not here. While the KB is strong, the ability to search existing cases as a way to apply lessons and resolutions is not included. While there is a way to define a standard resolution type, there is no support for root cause types and root cause analysis. There is also no process or method to define who a Case is assigned to and escalated to. While there’s a great feature throughout the system to take inbound emails from Exchange and create a Queue to track them, a user needs to manually convert them to a Case. Many competitors have the ability to generate Cases directly from inbound emails and track subsequent activities against that Case. Lastly, there are limited analysis capabilities built in and a small number of packaged reports. While this can be overcome with Report Wizard and Custom Reports and/or Dashboards, the latter two require developer involvement to get them done.

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