If you asked a management guru for a random valuable advice, he’d certainly say: Businesses which strictly focus on developing their core competence are the ones who take it far.

Sounds good, let’s do it!

However, as you probably know, it’s too easy to get caught up in improving your business processes and ‘hijack’ time from building the heart of your business. Many businesses have failed because they took their eyes off their core competency and spent too many resources on improving their operations.

So how do you make sure you’re efficient AND milking your core advantage at the same time?

Beating the odds

Let’s look at the example of Servcorp, a business that decided not to lose their focus. Servcorp is the world’s leading provider of Serviced and Virtual offices. They offer offices all over the globe at affordable prices – so their clients don’t have to worry about managing their external offices. Instead, they fill in an online form and are set up with an office, a local phone number and a receptionist within 5 minutes.


One of the reasons behind Servcorp’s success are their efficient business processes and information systems. In the past, they relied on their in-house IT team to build a CRM system from ground up. This system was perfectly optimised for their operations which gave them a great competitive advantage.

However, as the business grew, there came a point in time when they realised that this system had its limits – and it would be impractical to keep investing in its growth & maintenance.

As Matthew Baumgartner, CIO of Servcorp explained in their press release, Servcorp decided to look for a cloud CRM solution that would be scalable enough to tailor to their specific needs. They considered a few other vendors from the Gartner Magic Quadrant and decided that Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online would be the best solution for them, the main reason being its high adaptability and familiar interface.

Matthew Baumgartner

Matthew Baumgartner, CIO of Servcorp

The results

As a result of the implementation, Servcorp benefited from positive results:

  • They saved money and man hours on maintaining the system, which they could relocate back to creating value for customers.
  • They were able to serve their customers faster and better than ever before.
  • They strengthened their competitive advantage by improving their network and connecting all their locations together. With the help of other Microsoft Dynamics applications, they were able to get ahead of their competition who are still operating in silos.

Here is a video of Matthew Baumgartner summarising their impression of Microsoft Dynamics CRM:

The company rolled out the CRM application to 600 employees worldwide. The management made sure the system met the employees requirements by paying close attention to user training and the user’s feedback. Mr Baumgartner said “As a result, the CRM system has become a single point of entry for all sales and customer related data”.

How can you be as successful as Servcorp?

What’s your core competence? Speed of delivery? Passion for chemistry? Whatever it may be, your CRM should reflect this unique ability that has made your business successful so far – and has the potential to make it even more successful in the future. Give us a shout today and we can figure out how to help you achieve your goals.

Microsoft has revealed that it is updating its customer research management (CRM) software, incorporating the latest features of the technology.  

It has unveiled its spring wave of updates to its CRM solutions, which includes 54 updates operating in 42 languages. These are designed to work with a range of applications, with the company listing these as including Microsoft Office 365, Yammer, Lync, Skype, SharePoint and Power BI for Office 365.

Among the new services on offer are more widely-available Microsoft Dynamics Marketing and Microsoft Social Listening, while it has added a new unified service desk to its Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Microsoft noted that one of the most important elements of the CRM software is that it meets European Union privacy rules, with it being the only firm cut whose software is recognised as being fully compliant by the EU's Article 29 Working Party.

Commenting on the updates, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella remarked: “Microsoft Dynamics CRM has made unbelievable progress over the last few years, and the amazing capabilities in this release deliver significant value to our customers as an important component of the Microsoft Cloud for business.

“Through innovative business applications in the cloud, businesses can better meet their customers’ needs and thrive in a changing world.”

Bob Stutz, the corporate vice president for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, noted that the new releases were developed through a detailed programme that involved a design of the user interface, a six-month rapid release cycle, a number of new features and three company acquisitions.

The new Microsoft developments have come at a time when the sector has been growing substantially, according to data released by Gartner last month at its 360 Customer Summit.

It revealed the market was worth $20.4 billion in 2013, up 13.7 per cent from the 2012 total of $18 billion. Of this total, 41 per cent was delivered in the form of software as a service.

Joanne Correia, the research vice president at Gartner, predicted: "CRM will be at the heart of digital initiatives in coming years." 

Customer engagement white paper

Businesses are likely to make further investments in the digital marketing sector over the coming 12 months as this area gains further traction, both in B2B and B2C sectors.

Ashley Friedlan, the founder of Econsultancy, recently suggested that digital transformation is likely to continue in 2014 as firms across a number of different industries attempt to change their approach.

Writing in Marketing Week, he suggested that digital has become the “Trojan Horse” that will allow companies to reach the big prize and connect with customers as effectively as possible.

“Although digital is the catalyst and driving force behind change, particularly for organisations whose business models have been most disrupted, it looks like marketing as a function within business is to be the primary agent of change,” he added.

Marketers are now at the vanguard of a change in the industry, as companies attempt to become more customer-focused and change their approach in order to do this, explained Mr Friedland.

Forward-thinking British firms are “seeking to grow by reinventing the customer experience across all channels, driven by digital, to align with changing customer behaviour and a shifting business model,” declared Mr Friedlan.

While capital expenditure in the past has focused on infrastructure, big tech, property and so on, it is now expected to shift towards intangibles like data, content and code.

Agile processes are also likely to become popular, while new marketing technology systems based around software such as CRM are being developed by many firms, the industry expert claimed.

Data will be at the heart of the reinvention of data over the coming years, he concluded.

A similar trend was pinpointed in Deloitte’s 2013 chief information officer survey, which suggested that 75 per cent of IT leaders hope to support business growth through innovation.

The benefits of Microsoft Dyanmics CRM to busy public services has been underlined by the news that Basildon Council has installed the software in order to improve its relationship with stakeholders and local residents.

Speaking to Touch Magazine, Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementation manager at Basildon Borough Council James Dansey outlined the challenges facing the government organisation.

Its customer service centre handles 680,000 telephone calls and around 84,000 face-to-face visits each year, while its website receives 3,400,000 website views each year.

This highlights the role CRM can play in helping busy organisations – not necessarily in the public sector, or dealing with consumers – manage their information and relationships effectively.

One problem faced by Basildon Council was that residents tended not to realise they needed to contact specific areas of the operation depending on their query – instead, they would simply ‘call the council’, meaning time and money had to be spent transferring people to the right areas.

“We wanted to change our customer services structure to support that expectation, and so a customer experience programme was initiated to refocus the delivery of services to a single point of contact,” Mr Dansey told the magazine.

Their previous CRM system was incapable of supporting such an ambitious development, due to limited integration with other systems and a lack of insight into customer behaviour.

Microsoft’s product was better able to fulfil these needs, according to the CRM expert. It also offered additional pluses when it came to the installation and planning process.

“One of the main benefits of using Microsoft Dynamics CRM – or any Microsoft product – is the familiarity of the interface, which reduces training requirements. We are investing in other Microsoft technologies too so we hope to realise productivity benefits through better systems integration in the medium-longer term,” he concluded.

The council now has a better idea of how its service users connect with it, data it can use to improve its performance in the future.

According to the Mobile Finance Audit from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB UK), many of the country’s top 50 firms in this sector are keen to embrace mobile optimisation as they attempt to update their marketing processes.

CRM can be helpful when it comes to offering a well-developed service over a number of different platforms, especially given Microsoft’s plans to further update its Dynamics system with one eye on the lucrative mobile market.

At the moment, 24 per cent of the top financial services providers in the UK currently have little or no mobile presence, while the likes of Natwest, Bupa and Hiscox all performed well on this metric.

These three brands had a mobile optimised site, and a mobile and tablet app for both the Apple and Google Play app stores, explained the IAB.

Some 22 per cent of the firms surveyed had a responsive web design site – this means they are performing better than their counterparts in the retail and travel sectors, which scored two per cent and four per cent on this metric respectively.

This is promising, but concerns remain that businesses are not yet fully optimising the journey of customers, with only 58 per cent putting data capture measures in place within their mobile sites – another area where CRM can improve performance.

Jon Mew, mobile and operations director with the IAB, said: “These audits have been a fantastic benchmarking tool to help us gain an understanding on where brands across retail, travel and finance really are with their uptake on mobile. It’s evident that whilst some brands have really grasped the fundamentals of mobile marketing some are still lagging behind.”

His comments were underlined by Will Abbott, Hiscox marketing director, who said offering customers a strong experience across all devices is at the core of his organisation’s marketing strategy.

With 70 per cent of banks offering a mobile app, it seems this trend is set to develop well into 2014.

Ahead of Microsoft’s annual Convergence conference, taking place in Atlanta, the company has reiterated its plans to develop its Dynamic CRM software and highlighted the advantages it can offer to organisations around the globe.

Kirill Tatarinov, executive vice-president of Microsoft Business Solutions, highlighted the success firms such as Delta Air Lines, New Belgium Brewery, Lotus F1 and others had in using CRM to connect with their customers.

“Microsoft Dynamics is on the cusp of delivering a staggering wave of innovation to the market this spring that will significantly help businesses deliver amazing experiences,” declared Mr Tatarinov.

The changes put forward by the tech giant include a new set of mobile applications intended to make it easier for companies to link up with their customers via smartphones and tablets, in what is expected to be a major trend over the coming years.

Furthermore, a new cloud deployment network is expected to make it easier to utilise outsourced data solutions, making CRM an even more powerful tool in the corporate marketing arsenal.

“Businesses need the best solutions to keep up with the transformative changes taking place around the world,” added Mr Tatarinov, pointing out that the world is becoming more connected than ever before.

Consumers have higher expectations – 70 per cent of the buying experience is based on how the customer feels they are being treated, while 70 per cent of people form their opinion on a service or product based on their first experience with its sales process.

“Greater connections, more access to information and more interactions with peer groups have resulted in people being more empowered and more enlightened,” declared the Microsoft vice-president.

Fundamentally, this means firms need to concentrate on utilising technology and data to engage with their customers as effectively as possible, whether in the b2b or b2c arena.

CRM technology is one step in this direction; however, Mr Tatarinov also suggested that firms need to change their culture and approach if they are to make the most of the possibilities offered by the software.

Multinational company Dow Chemical has revealed it intends to continue using Microsoft Dynamics Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology for the foreseeable future thanks to the benefits it offer to employees.

Speaking to Computing magazine at Microsoft Dynamics’ Convergence conference in the US this month, commercial excellence technology manager at Dow Andy Clark praised the provider for striving to continue to improve its product.

“We’re happy and I don’t see us re-evaluating anything,” he commented.

Mr Clark added that Dow had an old in-built CRM system back in 2009 and also used another provider’s solution, resulting in a piecemeal approach that encountered a number of stops and starts.

In 2011, the company realised it needed a more tailored CRM system, so enlisted help from an unnamed third-party hosting provider to install Microsoft’s product.

Dow has never looked back – although Mr Clark admitted that it is still using the 2011 version and so will need to upgrade at some point in the near future in order to keep up with demand.

However, he acknowledged that change management is essential when it comes to CRM platforms, so this is something that any firm should anticipate when using them.

Around 2,400 Dow Chemical employees currently use Microsoft Dynamics CRM to help them carry out their roles.

Dow manufactures plastics, chemicals and agricultural products and has a presence in about 160 countries. A member of the American Chemistry Council, its sales are mostly to other industries rather than end-users.

However, it does sell to end-users in the human and animal health and consumer products markets.

Last month, Natwest Business Banking revealed it had opted for a Microsoft Dynamics CRM system because of the flexibility and integration it offers.

Like Dow, the bank had also found that its legacy system was becoming too slow and archaic to provide customers with the service they demanded, so it chose to implement a full CRM overhaul.

Does the cloud seem like a luxury you can’t quite justify? An unnecessary expense? Did you know that if you choose the right cloud, you could actually save money and in most cases increase profits?

There are several ways to look at adopting a cloud CRM. The most economical way is to consider hardware costs and the need to update on a regular basis. Ask yourself, how much do you spend on upgrading your hardware to ensure that the latest softwares runs efficiently? Constant upgrades become less of any issue when the computing is handled off-site, with terminals on your end only really needing an internet connection. There are other things to consider too; with fewer powerful computers and far fewer servers onsite, you can outsource the cost of maintenance. Assuming you’re new to CRM, there is an additional advantage in not having to purchase new equipment on top of reduced maintenance fees. Outsourcing affords you and your IT department a more stress free existence, permitting you to concentrate on bigger picture solutions within your organisation.

It’s the little things

It’s worth noting how the improved functionality offered by using a cloud CRM could boost revenue. A cloud CRM, such as that offered by Microsoft Dynamics CRM, adds a degree of flexibility to your workforce. Do your staff have different device preferences? Are some aggrieved at the prospect of using a desktop? Is there an office rivalry between OSX users and Windows? Using a cloud CRM allows all their needs to be met as the CRM is available and compatible on them all. Small things such as these help to boost office morale and, in turn, help drive productivity.

Even more importantly in this cross compatibility is mobile functionality, Microsoft Dynamics CRM supports Android, iOS and Windows Mobile as standard. A CRM built from the ground up to maximise mobile use permits your mobile Sales reps to have access to the same high quality information as those that are desk-bound. Productivity has been shown to increase by as much as 15% when sales teams have access to a mobile CRM platform. No longer will forgotten documents foil a sale, as everything can be contained, edited and added via their mobile phone or tablet.

What about privacy?

The level of a security on offer at the world’s data centres is another reason to consider switching from an in house CRM to cloud CRM. Data centres are known for having physical security measures on par with major banks with only a select few having access to the physical servers. In the age of the litigious person who is already quite sceptical of having their details stored elsewhere, this is particularly reassuring.

Digital and logical precautions are also regularly updated to keep in line with industry standard. Microsoft, for example, stick to ISO 27001 certification to ensure they remain ahead of the curve. CRM security measures extend beyond both digital and physical security to include many redundancy features. Multiple backup locations and power redundancies are standard procedure at Microsoft data centres, guaranteeing that, in the unlikely event that anything happens at a particular data centre, your data is still secure and accessible round the clock.