Customer Relationship Management software is going through a big transition as they deal with the changing user requirements. As consumers become more educated about the products and services they want to buy, old models of customer relationships have to change. 57% of buyers know what they want before they contact a business, which means they’re likely to know more about the features and pricing than your in-store staff.
With 44% of customers complaining through social media, and 20% expecting an answer in less than an hour, there’s no time for traditional aka slow processes to manage requests. Wherever speed to action is critical, that business function needs to be automated, where left up to individuals, it’s easy for customers and potential sales to slip through the cracks.
The challenges of communicating come from inside large organisations as well, with 84% of organisations now have some workers positioned in remote locations. So with internal and external communication being so important to an effective and successful business, it needs a modern solution.
In October 2013 Microsoft will launch CRM 2013 (codename Orion) which will go a long way to address these challenges. Also in development are the next two releases tabled for 2014, codenamed Mira (Q1 CY2014) and Leo. These releases will bring further integration with Lync, Skype and mobile device support as well as improved sales planning and customer case management.
The updates to Dynamics CRM and in broader terms Office 365, will be delivered to the online products first as they are easier to update and users receive the changes immediately. The 2 significant updates per year will then be rolled into a single update for traditional installers.
Microsoft say they now have 3.5 Million users of Dynamics CRM, across 40,000 customers. As we know Office 365 makes Microsoft more than 1.5Billion per year now, which is easy to understand when they see two thirds of new business is coming from online.
Microsoft continues to leverage one of their more recent acquisitions, Yammer. This allows teams to collaborate, share and discuss documents and integrate into CRM Dashboards. This allows managers / supervisors to have visibility over not only sales numbers and budgets, but also the conversation in the organisation around that data. This would allow users to discover or be reminded that a new report due tomorrow for example.
There’s a significantly updated interface in the upcoming October release of CRM. In keeping with the rest of Microsoft’s metro design language and touch-first approach, the primary navigation at the top are tiles. One of the more impressive pieces of functionality added is the ability to build and customise business processes.
This gets back to the automation of business we discussed earlier. Process steps are created and applied to a Lead, Contact, Sale or Activity that enables multiple participants to play their part in the chain. Each step is presented at the top of the item and can be ticked off as the required items are completed. This really is a significant step forward in CRM, while getting data in and out of CRMs is really well understood, what needs to happen to that data every week, month or year is often complex and easy to drop off the priority list.
Device support is also getting an improvement to deal with those mobile workers, first up, there’s a new Windows 8 app, iPad app, as well as standardised iOS, Android, Windows Phone apps. The Windows 8 app will ship day and date of Dynamics CRM 2013, although when we got hands-on the pre-release build at TechEd Australia 2013, there was plenty of work to do. Some interface elements broke Microsoft’s own UI conventions for a Windows 8 app and some app bar items didn’t even have icons.
Right now user interface is the same for all users, but in a future release title ‘Vagor’, users of the Windows 8 app will receive personalisation based on their role.
Overall the upcoming update to Microsoft’s CRM is a significant one that responds to changing behaviour of business and consumers. For existing users the upgrade is a no brainer, but for those new to CRM, or using a competitor, it’s worth serious consideration. The planned updates in future releases sound good, but some should really be included in this update if Redmond really want to enable business to deal with an evolving educated 24×7 social customer.