One of the most compelling reasons CRM buyers are attracted to Dynamics CRM is convenience of integration with Outlook.  Being able to keep a history of customer communications including emails and appointments is a basic requirement of anyone looking for a CRM, but it’s difficult for other platforms to achieve elegantly and seamlessly.

It makes complete sense that Microsoft, being the author of both Outlook and Dynamics is going to execute on this integration of email, calendar and customer records more intelligently and with greater depth

Other CRM solutions that claim to have email integration will often require the user to send emails and appointments via the CRM interface for them to be tracked and visible in the CRM.  This is basically just a connection to Exchange to send emails – not a true Outlook integration.  And what a pain! Who wants to send client related emails via one platform (the CRM) and other emails via Outlook?

If you think that’s not a big deal for your employees, think again.  A slightly annoying thing, repeated a thousand times, becomes a gigantic pain in the backside.  Every time we gain a customer who is migrating from another CRM platform, the number one reason is this frustration – irritated employees who hate to track emails and end up not doing it at all.  An empty or incomplete customer record is no use to anyone.

Productive employees need to have the right tools for the job.  Familiar tools.

People send emails from Outlook.  People make appointments in Outlook.  It’s like second nature.  Outlook has been the leading email client for a very long time now – even your Nan can use it.  Let them use Outlook for email and appointments and let the integration take care of the rest.

There have been various iterations of the CRM and Outlook integration.  Microsoft is currently phasing out a ‘client side’ Outlook plugin in favour of a ‘server side’ application.  We won’t talk too much about the plugin – because it will probably be superseded by the time you read this article.

Here’s a summary of the things you can do with the integration of Dynamics and Outlook – ranging from basic to bombastic.

1.    Track an email or appointment against a client record

Do it while you’re writing it, when you’re about to send it, or after it’s sent.  Track received emails the same way.  Click the Dynamics 365 icon, find the related record in the list of suggestions, click Track.  Easy.
You can track the email against the Contact, the Organisation, an Opportunity, and Order – which record is the most relevant.

Flick over to the CRM record – it’s right there, in its entirety in the list of Activities.

2.    Create new CRM records from Outlook

When you go to track an email in Outlook, you might find that one or a few of the recipients, aren’t yet contacts in your CRM.  You know this, because the CRM tells you that they don’t yet exist as a record in CRM and prompts you.

Create the CRM contact (or Lead record) right there from Outlook.  The integration pulls through your customized CRM form so you’re capturing all of your required fields (unique to your business).

3.    Create activities from an email – Tasks, appointments, phone calls

While you’re tracking the email, create any follow-up activities relating to that email or client.

You can create a task which will appear against the record in CRM as well as in your list of tasks in Outlook (or the list of the person you’ve assigned it to).  In the same way, create an Appointment which will also appear in both places. Or create a phone call record to remind you to make a follow-up phone call.

4.    Track emails in CRM simply by dragging into an Outlook folder

This is a great feature if you’re already in the habit of creating separate Outlook folders for each client.  Say you’re working on a sales Opportunity for Jones and Co, simply create an Outlook folder for Jones and Co, set up the mapping rules in CRM – ie.  Instruct which CRM record (Organisation, Opportunity, Order) to track the folder against.   From then on, every time you drag a received or sent email into that Outlook folder it will be tracked and visible in CRM, like magic.

5.    Use email templates for frequent emails

Say you send the same (or similar) emails to clients at different stages of the sales cycle.  You can create these as email templates in CRM. Just by creating a new email, setting what the email is regarding, you can see the templates available depending on the record you’re tracking it against.  For example, if the record is an Order, it will bring up all of the templates used for Orders.

With a click your email is populated with the template text which can be edited if required and then sent –tracked in CRM at the same time.

This is really just a taste of how easy life can be when your business applications are capable of talking to each other.   And it’s only going to get better and smarter.  We’re excited by some of the developments coming down the track from Microsoft, making CRM smarter and more interactive with their other products.

Activating the integration for every CRM user literally takes us minutes. We basically turn it on, check your other settings, push it out to the users and you’re off.