July 05 2016 by Jane Davies

You’ve invested effort and dollars in getting a CRM into your business, so now you have to make it worth your while and extract maximum value. The opportunities are there for the taking.

You might not want to hear this, but your CRM is never finished – there’s always more you could be doing especially when you’re working with a versatile solution like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

Here are our top 6 ways to make sure you’re extracting the best value from your CRM investment.

1. Get everyone using it … and happy about it

Sounds obvious but the number one reason why CRM implementations are perceived to fail is a lack of user adoption.  This often has nothing to do with the technology itself and more to do with human nature.

A new CRM ultimately means change – doing things differently. If ‘different’, doesn’t equal ‘better’ in the minds of your team, you’ll meet resistance. So how to do you get everyone on board? Putting in CRM isn’t about getting the staff to enter in data so management can get a report – you have to make it worthwhile for the team. Think about it from the team’s perspective as they will be thinking WIIFM – “what’s in it for me?”.

So hopefully, you’ve already involved key users upfront in the design of your solution. Listen to those who will be using the system – learn how the best of them would like to do everyday tasks and aim to make your CRM customisations suit the way they need to work – maybe solve some of the grumbles they’ve had in the past. This goes a long way to creating buy in.

Once implemented, it’s great to have a CRM champion in the business. This person should be your ‘super-user’ who can help people out when they need it. They should also have a keen ear to listen out for ways the system could be improved. Seemingly tiny things, like fields not listed in a logical order, can drive people nuts but are so easily fixed. So, fix them and keep them happy.

2. Learn from your data

Over time, as your team follow your processes consistently and complete the required data, you’re building up a gold mine of information you can use. That’s actually the whole point – so start using it.

For example, by consistently recording the competitor on lost sales opportunities, you can see trends and act on them. Where are the emerging competitive threats that you hadn’t noticed before? Who are you winning against more often lately? What’s changed in your competitor’s product set, distribution channels or behaviours that could be driving the trends?

Take the opportunity to look deeper at the clues in your CRM. Do you have bottlenecks in your processes? Is it taking longer than you expected for sales or orders to transition through your process stages? Investigate, learn, change and improve.

Get better open rates and responses on your emails to your customer base by applying and recording segmentation. All it takes is a field on a form in your CRM. A simple drop down can record what segment each customer belongs to – grouping similar customers together. Then you can tailor your communications to each segment and only send them information or offers that are relevant to them. The more relevant your communications are perceived to be, the better the result.

3.Collect the data you need – start NOW

Over time, you’ll trip over pieces of data that you’d love to have and wish you’d thought of earlier. If you’re not collecting the data you need, now is the best time to start. An extra field is cheap and easy to implement so there are no excuses for not collecting the information you need for decision making.

Remember, if you don’t collect it, you can’t use it. If information is valuable and necessary, consider making it a mandatory field when records are created. Even if you already have a CRM full of existing records, it’s not too late. If you implement a new mandatory field, once an existing record is opened, any new mandatory fields need to be completed before it can be saved. So over time, you’re updating the records with the information you need.

There are also some easy ways to go back and complete bulk updates of records or to complete new fields on old records using familiar tools like Excel.  Just ask and we’ll show you how or do it for you.

4. Integrate

One of the main reasons for investing in Customer Relationship Management software is to have all of your relevant customer information in the one place. Some important information required to complete the picture might (and rightly so) come from other systems. That’s where integrations come in.

The most basic but also the most powerful of integrations is the standard integration of Microsoft Dynamics CRM with Outlook. It’s seamless – you can even do a lot of CRM functions in Outlook itself. Tracking email communication against the client record in CRM is so easy, and helps build a complete record of your interactions in one place.

If you’re not using this native integration to its full potential, you’re really missing out. On top of this, you really should make sure you’ve got your CRM and SharePoint working together. All of your customer documents can be neatly stored in SharePoint and accessible from CRM.

There’s no end to the third party integrations we can initiate between your CRM and other systems you use. Some are simple plug-ins we can install, some are larger projects requiring custom development.

For example, if you’re using Mail Chimp, you can integrate this with your CRM using a third-party plugin. It’s so cheap - you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Other very common integrations we’re asked about are with finance systems. It’s ultimately very handy to have your CRM and finance system share information. It helps your CRM to be a complete customer record, by including summarised financial information, like billing, or by removing double handling of customer data by having CRM update Finance with change of address.

Xero is the most commonly used finance systems by small and medium businesses and we’ve done the groundwork to be able to integrate Xero with your CRM Online.  Just ask us for a quote.

5. Customise your reports and dashboards

There are thousands of ways to configure reports and dashboards in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

You can customise system views and dashboards for everyone to use and get value from, but the real power is creating your own personal ones just for you.

You can do this without affecting anyone else, and live in your own CRM nirvana with the information that is important to you, at your fingertips. Create your own personal dashboards around the metrics you’re measured on or that help you to do your job efficiently. If you think someone else would benefit from your handiwork you can share it with them.

We come across businesses all the time who have been living with the standard pre-built dashboards and views for years, even though they no longer suit everyone. After a while they’re just ignored. This is such a wasted opportunity considering that configuring reports, views and dashboards is so easy. There’s so much flexibility and there’s no excuse for just making do.

No two businesses are the same and the standard dashboards and views that are in your CRM should just be treated as examples. Take the time to think about the data you have, who needs to use it and for what purpose, and the best way to present it. Chances are, you can have exactly what you need with a bit of thought and basic configuration.

6. Don’t stop improving and adapting

Change is happening all around you. New staff, changing management, changing mix of customers or products, competitors entering and leaving the market and processes updated. So your CRM needs to catch up and stay relevant.

Sometimes, change can sneak up on you. Little changes cause people to adapt and find workarounds and then get used to doing things that way. This doesn’t mean they’re being efficient - just tolerant.

Consider this insidious effect of inefficient tolerance by way of example.

A new product is being trialled, so you start off getting sales people to use a ‘write-in’ product rather than adding it to the product database and price list. The product gets more popular and permanent, but people are still using the ‘write-in’ method a year later – and doing it inconsistently – different variations of product names and prices. Pretty soon, ‘write-ins’ become the norm for other products – the new sales staff have gotten used to doing it this way now. Your sales reporting ‘by product’ starts to show changes in product mix. ‘Write-in’ products are now 20% of your sales and proportionately some of your traditional price list products appear to be not doing so well. Is this really reflective of performance? Who knows?

This is an example of how a lack of discipline around ensuring your CRM reflects change, can make your CRM fall into disrepair. Your CRM is there is to support your processes and maintain consistency. This is essential so you can trust what your dashboards and reports are telling you and make good decisions.

We could talk all day about the potential for CRM to be the engine room of your business. The key message here is that your CRM should never stagnate. You invested in it for a reason, so keep investing effort in making sure it supports your people and processes. 

Our thinking

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