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The Microsoft Tools for Digitally Optimised Customer Service

Always ones to practice what we preach, we immerse ourselves in our customers’ sectors to inform the scoping stage and make our client meetings informed and productive.

Our recent digital transformation webinar resulted in quite a few opportunities from manufacturers keen to get more information about the next wave of change so it’s just as well we were already well into The UK Manufacturing Review 16/17.

Within the review, The Manufacturing 2020 Roundtable reveals what some of the manufacturing industry’s leaders had to say about what comes next for them. It led to interesting discussions internally so we want to share some of the thoughts we took on board with you.

The discussion is pinned around one key question: are manufacturing businesses taking full advantage of available technologies to tackle the productivity gap?

 

Automation

More is possible with automation. From lights-out running to identifying and scheduling maintenance, businesses need to be looking at where there current processes are stuck in the dark ages.

 

Robotics

The progress in robotics is noted. Modern robots have put safety fears to bed and can work side by side with employees. Programmability can put them in charge of the more dangerous parts that you might not want an employee dealing with and they are becoming more accessible to manufacturing businesses of all sizes.

 

3D Printing

Leaders are agreed on its usefulness with one business using it more and more for replacement parts to keep machines going. However, queries remain over accessibility for larger products as well as price.

 

Big Data

If you read our blogs regularly, you’ll know that data equals insights. You’ll also know that Dynamics365 is geared up to produce more of them (hence the game changer description). For manufacturers, it means pulling in data from across the supply chain and identifying issues, improving quality, adding customer service advantage and reducing waste.

 

Internet of Things (IoT)

Tied in with Big Data, the IoT is expected to result in 50 billion connected devices by 2020. The opportunities are huge for operational efficiency, predictive maintenance, automated scheduling, optimized servicing, increasing uptime and usage insights for future innovation.

 

Mass Customisation

With all of these advances, mass customization becomes increasingly possible with modular manufacturing and more flexibility. Customers get what they want, when they want it and at a price they’re happy to pay.

 

Digital Business

A lot of the talk here is around funding but also perception. Synonymous with customer experience, how are you using digital capabilities to meet your customers’ expectations? One comment was made that SME businesses in particular need to remember that digital is a journey and firms are at different stages. For some, it’s about doing more with your website. For others, it’s about the machines talking to each other and automation. What they all have in common though, is the importance of data that you just couldn’t gather any other way than usage.

 

Skills Gap

Manufacturing is still struggling to appeal to a younger generation who view it as old fashioned. Apprenticeships are a good route in but the colleges need to keep up with the equipment they are training people on and the forthcoming Levy will impact on the cost too. One of the business risks highlighted is that whilst degree qualified design engineers are easy to find, manufacturing engineers are few and far between leaving businesses exposed as their current engineers get older and look to retirement. In the same vein, middle management is also suffering from a skills gap where you have excellent technical candidates but with no management experience. The sector needs to attract a broader range of experience and skills.

For years, businesses in every sector have spoken of innovation with varying degrees of enthusiasm. It’s not going away. It’s gathering momentum and businesses really need to take stock of where they are on the journey right now, and what the next natural development for survival and growth should be.

We recently ran a Digital Transformation webinar which you might find helpful or if reading is more your thing, you can download this Digital Transformation for Manufacturers white paper.

As always, we’re here to help so do let us know if you have any specific information requests or things you’d like to see us talk about.

All successful businesses have one thing in common. They ‘get’ their customers. Not only do they make sure the product/service is meeting their needs, they make sure that their relationship with them is unshakeable by providing the best possible customer service. So, what does that look like?

Well, here’s what it’s not. It’s not keeping your customers waiting for information, it’s not being passed around multiple people, it’s not missing deadlines and only explaining after the event, it’s not when the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing, it’s not blaming other departments when things go wrong, it’s not incentivising new customers and taking the existing customers for granted, It’s not providing information only when it suits you.

Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? Yet UK firms that aren’t getting customer service right are losing £234 billion a year.  So what gives? Why is it proving so hard?

First of all, the service you think your customers are experiencing and the reality can be two different things and it won’t be because you’re not trying. One of the first things we do with our own clients is look at their existing processes. Yes, we’re IT driven but every piece of software and every application have the potential to enable or disable your team’s best intentions.  So we ask questions like:

  • How do your processes look?
  • Are teams able to communicate effectively with one another?
  • How easy is it to access and share information between departments?
  • How quickly and effectively can a client’s query be answered?
  • How easily can you spot a pattern in complaints or in product issues before they happen?
  • How do your customers want to interact with you?
  • What are your customer satisfaction rates?
  • What areas do your customers need you to work on?
  • Every process you have should be removing the barriers that prevent all of these happening.

How would you answer all of these? At the end of this month, we’re holding a webinar to look into exactly how Dynamics365 removes the barriers to gold standard customer service.  Not that long ago, CRM was a means to collect and store data, identify your best customers and prospects, send customer communications and to look at buying patterns.  Dynamics 365 has responded to the new age of customer expectations and has changed the customer service rules significantly.

Find out more information by watching on our Dynamics 365 for Customer Services webinar.

It’s somewhat ironic that most CRM systems were historically developed with sales and marketing in mind and yet, sales team members who love CRM are few and far between.

 

Here are some of the perceptions of CRM amongst sales professionals:

 

  1. Big Brother is Watching

CRM gives visibility of the sales pipeline and specific sales activities. Sales are the ultimate measure of a company’s success so it’s understandable that those figures are essential boardroom discussion points. The downside is that the Sales team can be heroes one minute, and have their performance under scrutiny the next. Businesses are never going to want to decrease the visibility of the sales team. Why would they? Dynamics 365 is about more than sales and marketing. Much more. The integrated platform is the first of its kind to glue together the final silos of data and processes of ERP and CRM bringing customer service, sales, marketing, field service, finance and operations together. One big feedback loop means business owners can see what is happening where in the business and the effect on one department to the next. Everyone in the organisation has the collaboration and insight to improve customer acquisition and retention, making it much easier for the Sales team to provide more competitive quotes, to assure the best customer service and to benefit from recommendation. Cynicism is borne of fear and ignorance. Dynamics 365 turns that on its head.

  1. Time…what time?

In the past, CRM systems have been a separate workflow meaning that the sales team view it with the same disdain as filling in timesheets. With the information in the mind or notebook of a sales person, it can be a bind to remember to record an email, a conversation, a new contact, a timetable update, proposal changes etc. It just feels like where data goes to die – no better than a filing cabinet. Dynamics 365 is one system. It’s the Common Data Model that is the game changer. It makes data entry more worthwhile and the effort is rewarded with tangible results.

  1. The Probability to Close …Maybe

Many sales people say that the forecasting accuracy of old school CRM makes too many assumptions and doesn’t allow for the nuances of human decision making. There is not a lot of room for qualifiers that explain the readiness or value of a particular milestone. Dynamics 365 is more insightful than that. It’s best to see this in action but we can assure you that it works.

  1. If it’s out my head, it’s in yours…

Sales people make their money through relationships – building them, converting them and nurturing them. Knowledge is currency and if they wouldn’t want a competitor to know everything, why would they want their colleague to?  We can’t tell you what kind of principles you should be looking for in your business but we can tell you this. A good CRM system gives the sales team an opportunity to shine brighter, more often. Relationship building is about more than facts. It’s about rapport and relationships. Even your closest colleague cannot replicate your approach.

  1. Who’s in charge?

There is a perception that with a CRM system, marketing begins to control sales. Dynamics 365 recognises they are two different disciplines but there is more to unite you than divide you! Marketing is everything that you do to reach and prospect potential customers to make them aware of you. Sales are everything you do to close the sale. It’s the difference between warming up a prospect and interpersonal interaction. We also often hear that a second piece of business from an existing client was lost because they were let down on project management or customer service.

Dynamics 365 licensing means that all departments can have visibility of other departments without paying for a full subscription for that app. When departments have visibility of activities within other areas, they can predict needs, have more meaningful conversations, improve processes and approaches, and move at pace. Collaboration comes in and department blaming is shown the door.

  1. Dynamics 365 v Salesforce

All CRM systems are not created equally and finding the right one for you takes research. When Dynamics 365 launched, it was described in the industry press as a game changer.  Every CRM system out there is looking at how AI infusion can ramp up customer insight and engagement. However, Microsoft owns LinkedIn, giving Dynamics365 a significant advantage. It’s one platform across the whole business, with user based licensing that saves money compared to Salesforce. Office 365 is key and the familiar Microsoft user interface that businesses all over the world have with Office 365 makes for much higher and smoother user adoption.

 

The last thing the Sales team need is another set of handcuffs. Dynamics 365 lets them really get the job done.

Find out more information by watching on our Dynamics 365 for Sales webinar.

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The Microsoft Touch Points for Customer Service & Manufacturing

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Checklist: Want the board to see what you see in CRM

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!

Back in January, we looked at what digital transformation means these days and on the 16th of this month, we’ll be walking you through how Microsoft are tackling it with Dynamics 365.

A recent Insurance Age article described how the industry’s structure is shifting but that it’s not yet certain who will gain and who will lose. They went on to say “Some things are certain though. Only the digital will survive. And in the new world, it’s not about big eating the small anymore, it’s the fast eating the slow”.

The UK Government recently announced £4.7 billion of funding for the research and development of future technologies such as smart energy, the Internet of Things (aka doing more online), robotics, AI and 5G networks as a part of the wider industrial strategy for the UK. Digital and STEM education, business support, clean energy and digital infrastructure are huge areas of focus.

Just last week, The Telegraph reported how tech groups and investors view Trump’s ban on immigration as a potential boost to the British technology scene, as US tech groups may choose to expand international operations at the expense of domestic hiring, and UK start-ups think twice about expanding to Silicon Valley.

They go on to describe how “London has become a major hub for American technology companies, undaunted by the Brexit vote. In recent months, Google announced plans to employ 7,000 people in London by 2020 and Facebook said it would hire 500 this year alone, both at new offices. Apple, Amazon and Snapchat have all announced hiring sprees in the capital.”

Every industry is undoubtedly a tech industry now and reading this, you’d be forgiven for feeling the pressure to join or lead the charge.

Stop. Think about these questions:

  • What are you hoping the technology will do for your business?
  • What are your bigger corporate objectives and is tech required to facilitate those and over what term?
  • What processes and systems do you currently have in play?
  • Is what you think you need right now, what you will need in the future?
  • How do your employees currently work and is the culture ready for change?
  • How will you make that happen?

One of the main reasons we are hosting a webinar on digital transformation is to outline the importance of these questions and (no surprises given our Gold Partner status and all the knowledge we have) to talk about how they are providing the integration and scalability to get businesses on the journey wisely and intelligently.

Here’s the key thing. Every business’ digital transformation journey will be different. So, yes, read up and know what’s available. Understand what other businesses in your sector are doing. But don’t jump on any bandwagons. Look inwards first.

Find out more information by watching on our Digital Transformation Webinar.

Dynamics 365 licensing has been our hot topic this past month.

We had so many questions about it that we prepared a webinar and a guide that would help businesses get their heads around it.

The first impression was that it was going to be a real change for the businesses already using Dynamics CRM Online.  Increasing the scope of the platform and the way that access is granted was always going to be something for existing customers to get their heads around but it’s been quite straightforward.

So we said goodbye to basic and professional (except for customers who had to wait for their renewal dates) and we welcomed Team Member Licensing, Application based licensing and Plans.

The changes have essentially made enterprise grade technology available to SMBs who previously relied on off –the-shelf CRM or ERP systems. The joined up approach we are now seeing from Dynamics 365 is reducing the need for expensive customisations that only Enterprise firms could meet the costs of in the past.

Now that Dynamics 365 is within reach of every size of business, businesses that were previously getting by with CRM and accounting software can look at the tech the big boys are playing with.  The new features such as advanced analytics, the use of AI for customer insights and the integrations of the sales and financial components means that improvements are visible from day one.

It’s seriously tempting to rush out and get Dynamics 365 and get it going right away and no Microsoft Partner is going to turn you away. However, two notes of caution. Firstly, no platform in the world is going to give you what you need if you haven’t decided what those needs are in the first place. A good Microsoft Partner will work with you to establish corporate objectives, to understand your current processes and see how best to implement Dynamics 365 to meet those goals. It can be a detailed process but it doesn’t have to be long winded. Don’t let any previous experience of Off-the-Shelf be your guide. Trust your partner.

Secondly, remember your people.  End users need to adapt to new processes and standards. Dynamics 365 will undoubtedly make your business more efficient and productive but your employees are human so it’s essential that you consult with them.

 

Dynamics 365 Licensing Explained

 

A quick recap of the license types and prices as of Jan 2017:

  • Team Member – aka light users. These are for the employees that don’t need access beyond visibility and minor edits.
  • Apps – role based licenses. So, a sales employee may need the sales app, a customer service employee; the customer service app, a project manager; the project app. You get the drift. All of the apps have their own fixed price and that doesn’t change based on volume.

The big gain so far is that you’re only paying for the access and individual needs rather than access to the whole system when they will only interact with a few screens.

Simple so far.

Interestingly, when you get to one employee needing more than one app, it’s cheaper to move to a plan – a sign of Microsoft’s intention for volume.

So, e.g. a Client Services Director who needs access to the Customer Service App and the Field Service App should be on Plan 1.  He may still want to have visibility of the Sales app to see what is coming in but he could have team member licensing on that.

Plan 2 brings in what were the ERP features in the old Dynamics language so that would have been the AX for Operations and Financials.

 

SO, where does that leave you? We’re always happy to talk you through your options over the phone or email.  Just get in touch.