Dynamics 365 CRM: Microsoft’s Big Play for B2B Growth

Monday, June 17, 2019
Michael Zunenshine
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The fabulous world of CRM has given us a plethora of new companies, many with funny names, cute logos and simple yet aesthetically-pleasing designs. Indeed, if today’s knowledge economy could be said to be “millennial” in nature, it’s no wonder that such a corporate personality has become the dominant rage.

But what about a leviathan like that founded by one of the world’s richest humans? We’re talking about Microsoft Dynamics 365, the CRM branch of one of the world’s most established tech multinationals.

It’s understandable that some SMEs might be wary of adopting Microsoft Dynamics 365, persisting under the assumption that it’s target clients are older and more legacy-style operations. However, as we take a step back to unpack all the aspects of Dynamics 365, we’ll see this might no longer be the case.

Modular Microsoft

The total Dynamics suite contains 11 core modules, and different packages include various combinations of these modules. The Customer Engagement Plan includes the five modules which together form a solid CRM package, which are:

  1. Sales

  2. Customer Service

  3. Field Service

  4. Project Service Automation

  5. Marketing

The remaining six modules might not necessarily be considered core CRM functions, but rather fall under the category of enterprise resource planning (ERP). They are:

  1. Talent (for HR)

  2. Finance and Operation

  3. Retail

  4. Mixed Reality

  5. Business Central (for SMBs)

  6. Artificial Intelligence (for sales, customer service, and market insight)

Of course, for those in the market for a complete package, there is likely some helpful overlap between the two types of modules.  

Dynamics 365: Unpacking the modules

First, let’s take a closer gander at some of the distinct features of Microsoft’s five CRM modules.

Sales

The Sales module makes use of what they call “embedded intelligence.” It synthesizes data from Office 365 as well as LinkedIn. One can add contacts to Dynamics 365 based on common contacts with a Linkedin profile, or find new contacts based on key terms found in LinkedIn posts by other users.

For example: If you have a money management business, and some interesting LinkedIner liked or made a post about money management, you can import that person’s profile data into Dynamics.

There’s also a “gamification” app that uses fun and competition to motivate sales teams, kind of like a fantasy sports team setup. It’s also a great way for new sales reps to get coaching from more seasoned agents who are on the same team.

Service

Service is divided into two modules: customer service and field service. The interface here is called “end-to-end omnichannel service.” It uses machine learning to assess each customer service rep’s particular strong points and then connects customer tickets to the appropriate rep.

When reps handle a new ticket, the CRM helps feed all other related articles and ticket history so that reps are better equipped to resolve issues quicker.

The field service feature is designed for technicians who need to get out of the office and go on site to assist a client. The module helps organize logistics such as transportation and scheduling to maximize efficiency.

You can see this feature in action with a short video from their site. In the video, an espresso-machine company uses Dynamics 365 to stay in touch with café owners who use their machines, scheduling field techs to visit cafés and do repairs when necessary. Pretty neat, as many CRMs don’t talk too much about actual on-site customer service.

Project service automation

Project Service Automation focuses on the dovetailing goals of increasing worker productivity and achieving more efficient project completion. It helps to keep an ongoing project in line with the original project expectations in terms of things like costs and deliverables using intuitive visual dashboards.

Through this feature, internal employees can review projects and apply for roles. External consultants and subcontractors can be given access to help collaboration. There’s also a secure project portal feature which gives clients special access to review quotes and other resource requirements.

Marketing

When it comes to getting new leads, Dynamics 365 for Marketing covers all the major communications channels to increase customer engagement: email, landing pages, SMS, the good ol’ telephone, and even live digital events like webinars. Campaigns are created with their design tools or by using Microsoft templates.

The marketing tools work in tight tandem with Dynamics for sales via the pipeline, which lets marketers rate and prioritize leads as they move them on to sales and closer to conversion. Conversion data from sales feeds right back to marketing to help the department orchestrate new campaigns. These analytical dashboards are fully customizable.

AI

It’s important to note that the artificial Intelligence feature for sales, customer service, and market insights is not a part of the basic Customer Engagement Plan (the CRM package), so it’s an added incentive to go with the full package.

Spreading beyond sheets

CRM has grown from being simply a customer data spreadsheet upgrade to encompassing sales, marketing and service organization, automation, and analytics for each department. (Salesforce, as an example, was founded in 1999 but only added customer service and analytics in 2014).

The scope and breadth of Dynamics 365 is a worthy match for the most complex of an enterprise’s CRM needs. That being said, it’s possible that some light and lean startups might still be intimidated by the complexity of Microsoft’s many modules and more legacy-leaning design interface.

One might expect Microsoft to be pricier than many of the SaaS competitors, however, at $115 per user per month, the “Customer Engagement Plan” isn’t exorbitant.

As a company grows, adding additional modules from the greater Dynamics package is no problem at all. If one’s business is very international, for example, one might be interested in Dynamics AX, which is for companies doing business across multiple languages, currencies and national laws.   

But, you also don’t have to be on the verge of a $100M IPO to take advantage of some of Microsoft’s CRM features.

Is Dynamics right for me...and if so, which package?

As for complete packages, there are Dynamics 365 Business Central and Enterprise Edition.

The main difference between them is that ‘Business’ is recommended for companies with less than 250 employees and doesn't come with every single module (though ones can be added), while ‘Enterprise’ is for the larger companies who want it all.

And for tiny startups just stretching their wings? With Microsoft Dynamics 365, there are all sorts of individual application and offers (starting as low as $40/user/month).

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