Does your CRM Partner Make You Happy?

OK, this is a bit clichéd. We’ll say it anyway. We really do care about our clients’ businesses.

Maybe it’s because we get so entrenched in them when we’re helping them assess the case for CRM. Maybe it’s because getting to know the people in the business is the biggest part of understanding the existing systems and processes. Maybe it’s because we are so invested in their corporate objectives that we are willing them on from the sidelines every month of every year.

Does it get in the way of us delivering the product? No! It’s the whole point of delivering the product.

If your organisation is currently investigating Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRM), you may well be wondering what a CRM partner actually does and do you need one. Maybe you already have a CRM partner but you’re wondering if they are quite so emphatic about the importance of the relationship as we are.

Redspire is a Gold Microsoft Partner and over the many years that we have been working with Dynamics, we have noticed an ongoing expectation that you simply buy a CRM system, set it up and off you go.

Off the shelf CRM are mass-produced, one size fits all systems. They’re really generic and don’t allow for the way your business’ product, people and processes work. Many businesses try to ‘fit’ the CRM system instead of having the system aligned to them. And many partners let them.

Dynamics 365 has made enterprise level tech available to businesses of all sizes in all sectors with less customization needed across the board. Note, we don’t say no customization needed. Even with the FastTrack, there is still a process of due diligence and knowledge sharing that has to happen.

The right choice of partner makes all the difference. When you hear stories of CRM not working for businesses, remember this. It’s not necessarily the platform that’s the problem; it’s the union of the people working on it.

So, if you’re still seeking the right partner, here are some of the qualities you should be looking for:

  • Strategic– A good partner should be asking questions beyond the subject of IT.
  • Collaborative – You’ll experience what level of collaboration you can expect during the system identification stage but it’s perfectly acceptable to ask your potential CRM partner for client references that will reveal their ability to stick with you.
  • Knowledgeable – A good partner will not only know their preferred platform inside out, they’ll know all the compatible tools and have a depth of experience that you won’t find in a user manual.
  • Processes – Your partner should provide you with a clear roadmap for planning, implementation, deployment and ongoing support. Without it, everyone is left feeling vague. Lost control means things will get missed.
  • Project Management – Make sure you find out who the day-to-day contact will be, and ask about ongoing progress visibility.
  • Industry experience – It’s often preferable to have a partner with experience in your particular industry. However, it’s sometimes good to have a partner with experience from other sectors come to the party. We often find that it ensures a ‘take nothing for granted’ ideology that ensures no stone is left unturned in the planning stage. With that comes fresh thinking and often, business changing solutions that becomes a model for others.
  • Service offering – how will your Partner support you after full deployment. It’s important that you discuss those expectations early on. We are often called in to assist companies who have parted company with the original implementation partner and tried to do customisation on their own then watched their user adoption suffer.

If you’re in the UK and you’d like to know more about choosing the right partner, get in touch with us and test us out!

What Does Digital Transformation Mean Now Anyway?

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Digital transformation.  It’s a catch all term for how digital technologies are changing the lives we lead, and the businesses we operate today.  To be honest, it’s overused. You’ll see it in nearly every article you now read. What’s the problem with that? As a term becomes more and more used, it fails to stop people in their tracks. It fails to engage in meaningful thought. And when the term digital transformation becomes like wallpaper, it does the technologies it seeks to promote a disservice.

So, let’s just stop a minute. Let’s unpack the term digital transformation and let’s find meaning in it again so that you can understand where it will truly help your business to progress.

Most businesses understand the term digital now. Even Cloud is a widely understood term and organisations are embracing the systems and processes that sit on them to facilitate productivity, efficiency, collaboration and relationship building.  For most organisations, it’s an acceptance that their customers also expect digital progression and the improved service levels that come with them. So for most, it’s about starting there. Then there’s the visionary stuff that is fast becoming the mainstream.

 

The Internet of Things (aka IoT) is about Cloud-based machine-to-machine communication made possible by networks of data gathering sensors. It generates data that instigates an action designed to improve efficiency. It works best when there is infrastructure in place to analyse it all.  It’s pretty limitless and is growing into new areas every day. At a domestic and immediately understood level, it could be your smart energy meter that allows you to control your energy use remotely or an alarm clock that tells your coffee machine to get going with that first cup of the day. At a city level, it could be smart roads and amenities. At a business level, it’s about the same drive for efficiency, productivity and turnover.

 

In manufacturing, new equipment tends to come with IoT sensors pre installed but the industry is also adept at retro fitting to existing equipment. BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, expects the installed base of manufacturing IoT devices to grow from 237 million in 2015 to 923 million in 2020. By then, manufacturers will spend approximately $267 billion on the IoT. Manufacturers are currently using IoT solutions to track assets in their factories, consolidate their control rooms, and increase their analytics functionality through predictive maintenance. Many IoT solutions are still basic, but we expect manufacturers to eventually implement more complex technologies, such as autonomous robots and augmented reality (AR) tools. Indeed, it’s innovations like this that usual cause growth for a country’s economy as it takes us into a new industrial age.

Insurers using IoT technologies will be able to cut costs, improve business practices and better assess clients’ risk levels. Usage based insurance (UBI) is already in play with IoT devices that track customer activity and offer discounts or rewards for desired behavior.

 

Artificial intelligence has just enjoyed its 60th birthday and it shows no signs of letting up. Digital Visionary, Kevin Kelly (you can find him on TED Talks) puts it like this. We already have AI. It’s everywhere. It’s used to fly planes, to make recommendations on Netflix or Amazon, to diagnose x rays, to go through legal evidence and even to serve you search results.  With the Industrial Revolution, we got artificial power. With AI, we are plugging in smartness and giving that power cognition. As humans, our intelligence is too dynamic. We have a symphony of over 100 different types of intelligence in our brain that forms different orchestras on a minute-by-minute basis. Sometimes, one player in that orchestra gets too noisy for the situation. With AI, you can have just the intelligence you need. So, your machinery, your programmes, your smart car can get on with the job without any distraction.  Here’s an interesting though of his. It’s not about the AI taking over. AI and human intelligence have to work together. It’s not about AI taking over. It can’t. Its profundity is found in its single mindedness. We need to continue to deliver the lateral thinking.  So, yes manufacturing may be reticent to let AI in, but the manufacturers that will excel are those that make it work FOR them, not instead of them.

 

Businesses are generating a huge amount of Big Data on a day-to-day basis. Big data is when you have enough of it that you can analyse it for insights leading to better decision-making and strategic changes. Most businesses have the data yet many don’t have the means to analyse it. Retailers who are confidently using CRM to generate vouchers and communication based on a customer’s buying habits are ahead of the game. The insurance sector is catching up fast with the ability to recalculate entire risk portfolios in minutes and detecting fraudulent behavior before it hits.  Manufacturing can identify root causes of issues and defects in near real time limiting damage.

 

Imagine a business call where you can call up remote members of the team or your clients, and engage with them in augmented reality. Unbelievably more natural, definitely more collaborative and surely something we will all want to be doing in the future. The same 3d experience that brings proper collaboration to businesses raises the game for training, for repair instructions, for showcasing products, for tourism, for interior design, for office environments. It really is limitless and whilst the glasses are currently clumpy and conspicuous, just give it time. The dominant form of this hasn’t emerged yet and whilst I find it very exciting, I suspect the mainstream won’t be ready for this for quite some time.

 

Drones remain a thing and you’ll probably have seen Amazon’s efforts to implement them.  I suspect the US will lead the way given the passing of FAA rules that make it easier for commercial interests to take to the skies.  I think there’s huge potential for manufacturing firms and the insurance sector to use drones although in completely different ways. Watch this space!

 

What will your business’ digital transformation look like in 2017?

Here’s what I suggest.

  1. Start with your strategy. Always. Never jump to technology because it excites you. Know that it meets a corporate objective first.
  2. Get an outside view of your systems, processes and corporate objectives. Chances are that you will be starting with the basics by making sure your CRM is doing what it needs to do, that your processes are intelligent and that your data is being put to good use.
  3. If you are looking at new systems, look at the bigger picture of integration of where you are now and where you plan to go. Scalability is crucial.

4 Productivity Resolutions for Business Leaders

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There’s something different about the time between Christmas and the return to work in early January.

The office environment is a little quieter, the pace is slower and people are more communicative. Inboxes are dealt with, junk mail deleted, desks tidied, to-do lists revised, outstanding tasks achieved.

Organisation brings calm. Calm brings clarity. Clarity brings vision. Visions are for sharing. That sharing brings collaboration. Collaboration brings effectiveness. Effectiveness brings productivity. It’s a virtuous wheel that often gets punctured because we are being busy fools, working at a frenetic pace to just get things done as quickly as possible. We miss opportunities for smarter thinking.

In a bid to keep the spirit of ‘tween days, you need to address the basics.

Here are our simple, often forgotten, business leader productivity tips that will bring calm and effectiveness into your day and organisation.

 

  1. Control Your Email

Do you control your email or does it control you? Here’s something worth thinking about. Email represents us. People do judge us based on our email habits. You need to be organised and responsive.  However, the trick is doing that without letting it disrupt your day.

  • Decide when to tackle your emails – twice to three times a day should do it. Once a week, try to clear your inbox, filing what’s important, deleting what is not. It’ll stop the email becoming white noise.
  • Be succinct in your emails, keep to one main point and you’ll get a quicker answer.
  • Confirmation or conversation? If your email will most likely result in a ping pong of emails or if you don’t want something in writing, use the phone instead.
  • Remember that emails are easily misconstrued. Avoid group emails unless it’s simply to distribute information. A group of people will always have differing interpretations and you can quickly lose the point.

 

  1. Control Your Diary

If you’re anything like our MD, Billy Lyle, you’ll be in demand. Everyone wants a slice of your time but you still have your own tasks to complete and clients to look after.  There are so many tools and apps to help you manage your diary better but ultimately, it comes down to this:

  • You only need one calendar.
  • Use one digital task manager and get rid of all the post-its.
  • Theme your week if you can – client meetings, research, prep, people.

 

  1. Control Your Knowledge

What information do you need each week to manage the business? When was the last time you felt able to study your area? Just for fifteen minutes? How much time do you spend finding out answers when they’re suddenly urgent? How many times have you felt poorly informed in a client situation? By being on top of your knowledge sources, you’ll identify the ones worth having and the ones to lose.

  • Set proper time aside for your management reports.
  • Build a reading list and habit, whether it’s daily, weekly or fortnightly where you commit time to get on top.
  • Schedule thinking time and objectivity will become a habit making for better decision-making and productivity.

 

  1. Control Your Meetings

Meetings need to happen; information, status, brainstorm, one-to-one, strategy, board, committee. It’s the most productive way to discuss and collaborate, to make things happen but employees dread time away from their desks.  They often come to the meeting distracted and poorly prepared.  Here’s how to make it more productive for everyone:

  • Have a clear purpose
  • Have an agenda (circulate it in advance!)
  • Have an agreed end time
  • Have a good moderator
  • Have agreed actions

It’s remiss of us not to point out the huge benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365 in addressing so many of these points (and hundreds more) to improve productivity and profit throughout all sizes of business. But we’ll get back onto that in January!

For now, the team here at Redspire would like to wish you all a productive and prosperous 2017.

Why the Public Sector Needs CRM

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As a Gold CRM partner to Microsoft, we see a lot of businesses trying to draw closer to their customers.

Effort, budget and vision get them to where they want to be. They realise that to have competitive advantage, they must be operationally effective and skilled at communicating with their customer base on the customers’ terms.

With the UK population feeling very disconnected from the Government, local politics and often the public sector organisations that seek to serve them, it’s time to take a closer look at the business example. Many councils and public sector organisations are already doing it, using Microsoft Dynamics and other CRM platforms to be more affective and engage people at the same time.

How can CRM help?

At a basic level, CRM will greatly increase the efficiency and cost effectiveness of public sector organisations facilitating, automating and streamlining interactions between employees, service providers and customers. Collaboration and productivity tools reduce duplication of effort and make day-to-day tasks easier for employees. In the case of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, a 360-degree view of every council tax or housing contact gives seamless case management and in the case of Dynamics365, it does it a role based level so confidentiality is never unnecessarily breached.

There can be so much more to public sector CRM than just cutting costs and streamlining services. Many are arguing it’s time to reinvent the interactions between the electorate and local, national and UK governments. Using CRM, public sector bodies could reverse the disempowerment that most constituents feel.

Imagine your local area having a CRM portal that you could access for all the services you need? Submitting parking permit applications, paying a fine, requesting bin uplift, asking a question of your local councilor, telling the right person about an ongoing community issue, a pothole problem or something that would help the community to be safer and more progressive.

At election time, imagine being able to access all of the opposing parties in your area to really understand their policies at a local and UK level without feeling accosted on your doorstep. And with that kind of information going into the CRM, imagine the insight that those in authority could use for understanding their area, their policy strengths and weaknesses.

CRM is an area in which the public sector can learn from the business world. Know your customers, listen to them, respond to them, keep them informed, make it easy for them to interact with you, make them want to be active participants in what you do. It will ultimately save your organization time and money chasing a disengaged population.

Are you a housing association looking at how CRM could help? We are offering housing associations and similar public sector bodies a supported free trial of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Just like your customers, it’s worth getting up close to understand it.

How CRM Trumps Outsourcing For Local Authorities

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Customer service outsourcing in the public sector is on the rise.

A new Local Gov report has revealed that local authority outsourcing has increased 50% year on year in the first half of 2016.  But what is the actual cost beyond the seemingly great financial savings for local authorities?

Here is a private sector example that we can all relate to. A supermarket customer has booked a delivery online and spent one hour completing the transaction. The customer waits in for the delivery that doesn’t turn up in its one-hour slot. After one and half hours, the customer calls the supermarket customer service line and after being on hold for a few minutes, gets put through to an ‘agent’ who asks a number of security questions before asking what the issue is. The customer advises the agent that the order has not arrived and expects the agent to have sight of the problem. The agent then calls the store where the order was picked and sent from. The customer waits on hold for a further eight minutes. The agent returns to the call with the given reason for the problem and to get to the bottom of it, the customer spends a further 45 minutes being put on hold, making repeat calls and finding out that the store and the agent are working off two different systems and that system updates have caused the problem. Add to this that the Agent doesn’t easily understand the customer (perhaps they were based in another country).  The agent doesn’t have any authority to offer any compensation but merely apologises on behalf of the supermarket. The customer is left frustrated and decides not to buy online with that brand again.

It’s a good example because it shows the damage that an outsourced company can do to the customer journey. With misinformation, system integration difficulties and a ‘middleman’ mentality, how can that supermarket ensure that customers’ needs are being met?

That’s not to say that they’re all bad. Of course not. Recent Customer Service Excellence (CSE) standards are making it easier for companies to outsource to businesses that have agreed to meet them. And depending on the sector, there are many good companies out there.

 

Is there a better way?

Can outsourcing ever replicate the quality of interaction that a local authority or housing association employee can ever have with a customer?  With greater insight into the organisation, the target audience, experience and knowledge across departments, customers can generally tell when they are dealing with someone who knows what they are talking about. With most public sector organisations trying to change customer behavior whilst servicing those same people, brand and care of duty cannot be underestimated.

Is Cloud the new outsourcing?

With Cloud CRM (Customer Relationship Management) technology, the budget restraints and cost pressures from unnecessary admin, staff training, staff turnover and complicated processes can almost be eradicated. Not only does that mean you don’t need a middleman, you also gain a huge amount of customer service advantage and data insight that will inform decision making in the short, medium and long term.  Your staff are empowered to deliver a better customer journey from start to finish with improved collaboration, communication with customers, productivity and clear next steps in every case.

If you’d like to know more about the ways local authorities and housing associations could benefit from Microsoft Dynamics CRM, you might enjoy reading Top 10 Housing Association Outcomes of Microsoft Dynamics CRM infographic

Are you preparing your data for Brexit?

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Regardless of which way you voted in the EU Referendum, the consequence of the planning process and the eventual exit will impact upon all businesses at one level or another.

Right now, we’re finding that more businesses are looking to protect their position with CRM providing a productivity and customer closeness advantage. Will that continue as Brexit progresses? We hope so. It’s easy to want to batten down the hatches in economically turbulent times but this is no ordinary time. Technology will continue to gather pace and change the way businesses work. Microsoft has provided us with the product, our job is to continue to make the cost benefit ratio stack up for our customers.

In the meantime, we have a lot of existing customers asking about the security of their cloud data. Here are the facts.

Digital borders are inevitable.

The United States and the European Union are still working on a new data privacy agreement, governing the flow data between the two. The  ‘adequacy’ decision is not yet defined which means it’s already tricky.  The UK will need to go through the same process with both the EU and the US as part of the Brexit preparation. Our privacy laws in the UK must meet new EU rules for businesses to be able to have cross-border data flows.

What can your business do?

You need to have flexibility in cloud options and be able to adapt to suit customer needs and comply with data sovereignty laws.

The effect is two fold.

  1. Businesses in the UK may need to look at where and how their data is being stored and shared globally. They will need to meet UK data legislation and still need to follow the EU General Data Protection Regulation (which become enforceable in 2018).
  2. Businesses based in Europe will need to look carefully at the data legislation that the UK brings in and make sure that it meets European requirements.

 

Dynamics CRM customers will be better off than most with the size of Microsoft’s cloud network and with more than 100 data centres worldwide the flexibility is there to adapt where required. Your business’ data can reside wherever legal requirements necessitate. However, don’t forget it’s who the data is about, not just where the data lives.

So, what do you need to do right now?  If you think your business will need to look at data centre locality, talk to your Microsoft Partner. Get an idea of what’s involved, who you need to involve at your end and create a plan for what needs to happen when so that you don’t get caught out with a too short timescale and fines that could be as much as 4% of your global turnover. Otherwise, trade with Europe could be off the table.

Any questions? Feel free to get in touch.

Why Insurers Choose Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Customer Retention

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The benefits of CRM are well known in the insurance industry. Seamless customer service, faster enquiry handling, smarter processes, effortless task management and automated workflows all mean much higher productivity and customer retention.

But as Microsoft take Dynamics CRM onto the next level with their forthcoming Dynamics 365, let’s remember the reasons why Microsoft Dynamics CRM has always been one of the best selling in the sector.

Here are just a few of the compelling facts that build on the basics of what a good CRM system should do.

  • Deployment Options: Dynamics CRM is the only CRM system built solidly enough to allow you to choose and change deployment. You can read more about the benefits of On-Premise v Cloud-Hosted on our
  • Integration: Being part of the Microsoft family comes with big benefits. Seamless integration with Outlook, Skype, Office 365 to name a few with LinkedIn soon to follow. It’s a connectivity that other providers simply don’t have.
  • Familiar User Interface: One of the highest user adoption rates in the market. Coupled with partner expertise (such as ours of course!), Dynamics CRM is set up for success from day one.
  • Intuitive customisation: Dynamics CRM comes into its own when the right tools and apps are deployed to make it really fit your business objectives. It’s a solid platform to customize from a access to a wide range of tools and its scalability means it will always fit your business’ processes and people.
  • Easier Administration: There is an extensive administrative function allowing you to alter fields, entities and processes without code if you have the right team internally.
  • Scalable and Innovative: The pace of change in the business environment is incredible. Dynamics CRM has always been at the forefront of the role of CRM and is always looking to the future to maximise the return on investment for its customers. You can read more about how this will look with the forthcoming Microsoft 365 on our blog.
  • Data Security: With the rise of security hacks and identity fraud across the world, cloud-hosted data security has never been more crucial. Each Microsoft data centre has perimeter security, multi-factor authentication, locked racks and extensive video monitoring. More importantly, Microsoft is the only Cloud provider to have UK data centres, making it even easier for businesses with highly sensitive data to benefit from the advantages of Cloud-hosting.
  • Extended CRM: The Microsoft Dynamics platform has evolved from a CRM tool to a fully integrate collaboration, communication and business productivity suite. With the right customisation and input, Dynamics can improve your relationships with suppliers, contractors and partners, as well as your customers.
  • Pricing: Users, press, industry analysts and partners alike, all rate MS Dynamics as one of the best value platforms across licensing, services, training, customisation, implementation, administration and maintenance.

Any CRM system is a commitment that it’s important to get right. To give you further insight into how it helps with customer centricity, we’ve prepared a Step-by-Step Guide that is free to download and will get you on the right path.

 

customer centricity & crm

 

 

10 Reasons To Choose Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online As Your Cloud-Hosted CRM

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For businesses looking into cloud hosted CRM, the benefits of Cloud are already clear.

Lower hardware investment, no IT resource requirement, quick set up, accessibility and security are all solid benefits. But those are only the start. With the onset of Microsoft Dynamics 365 later this year, it’s all about to step up a gear.

So, once you know you want to be Cloud-hosted, how do you decide which CRM system is right for you? Here are just ten of the many reasons to choose Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online over other CRM solutions.

1. Integration
With a 360-degree view of every customer, interactions across all channels couldn’t be simpler, more comprehensive or more effective. Within Dynamics CRM Online, you can manage appointments, record meetings, create emails, create video calls, create documents, share documents, export to excel when required, review social engagement, create and use marketing lists, review visual data dashboards and charts, integrate with Office 365 and access everything across PC, tablet and phone. The possibilities for productivity, communication and collaboration are astounding.

2. UK, European and US Data Centres
Microsoft has very recently become the first cloud provider to launch UK Data Centres meaning data security is less of a barrier for sectors such as legal, banking, insurance, public and utility. Because data can now be locally stored, organisations can replicate data within the UK for backup and recovery as well as maintain legal compliance. Microsoft has physical and environmental security within these data centres including Perimeter security, multi-factor authentication, locked racks and extensive video monitoring.

3. Free Mobile Apps are Included
Each CRM user licence comes with access to MS Dynamics desktop and mobile apps.

4. LinkedIn Integration
With Microsoft’s recent acquisition of LinkedIn, Dynamics CRM users will be the first to see the possible benefits of the integration for lead generation, data accessibility, automated LI processes, lead scoring, trending themes to name a few.

5. Immediate access to New Features
Microsoft has a Cloud-First release strategy with access to updates months in advance of on-premise users. There are usually two updates per year. That means no falling behind with versions and prevents a large and time-consuming update in the future.

6. Service Level Agreement
Microsoft commit to a 99.9% uptime Service Level Agreement that they financially back so you can be assured of your CRM’s availability.

7. Sophisticated Recovery Process
Data is hosted on the server but then hot copies are made to another server within the same data centre. When data is saved in the CRM Online environment, it is also synced with the same process into a second data centre in your region. The data is saved four times, and includes nightly back ups.

8. Rapid Implementation
Without any physical servers to consider, Microsoft CRM Online can be deployed with a simple online activation of the account.

9. Highly Skilled Maintenance
Microsoft Operation Centers provide 24/7 monitoring and system alerts. This is to catch issues in which self-healing has not resolved and then escalated to a Service Engineer to resolve the issue. With no on-premise servers to maintain, you require less ICT staff, equipment and capital expenditure. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is a cloud subscription service and therefore an operating expense rather than a tax attracting capital expense.

10. Flexibility
Businesses are not only able to add users and Microsoft Dynamics CRM is so flexible that you can switch between Cloud-hosted and on-premise as often as your organisation requires. The database architecture is consistent so you can move databases easily without losing your customisations, set up etc.

There is so much more to say about Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. The best way to get to grips with it and assess whether it’s the right system for your business, is to have a chat and take a look at it up close.
You can also take a look at our most downloaded Step-by-Step Guide to Getting CRM Right.

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